A long climb for Sentinel secondary’s cross-country running team finally reached the top Saturday when the school’s senior girls claimed the team title at the provincial championships held in West Kelowna.
With more than 200 runners from across the province taking part in the race, the West Vancouver school managed to place three girls in the top 25 and six in the top 45 to claim gold with 57 points, ahead of second-place Earl Marriot at 65 and West Point Grey at 95. North Vancouver’s Handsworth secondary finished fourth with 115.
The win capped off an impressive run for the Sentinel girls who won gold in the junior division at last year’s provincials and returned this year to go undefeated on the North Shore senior circuit before cleaning up at provincials.
“I’m really proud of these girls,” said Hugh Wilson, who coaches the team along with Lauren Hart and Mark Fenn. “I think they’re great ambassadors for Sentinel. They had so much fun – they were singing in the car on the way up, they had a dance party in their room the night before to loosen up, they all jumped into Lake Okanagan together – they just had a lot of fun. They’ve always got smiles on their faces.”
Grade 11 racer Rhian Paterson lead the way, finishing 14th overall in the race. “She’s a real plugger,” said Wilson. “She’s also a big-race runner. … We knew we could count on her for a strong race.”
Sarah Lavallee and Ehren Paterson, Rhian’s younger sister, both cracked the top 25, while the trio of Lucie Cherpin, Melina Stokes and Emilie Kaye all finished near each other, inside the top 45. Grade 9 star Emmajean Neal, who won every senior race on the North Shore this season, including the zone final, rounded out the results for Sentinel at provincials with a finish in 83rd spot.
“We’ve been getting better and better. We felt really strongly we could do it this year, and it happened,” said Wilson, adding that racing as an individual and a team member gets runners to think about more than just themselves. “You want to do everything you can and beat everyone around you ... (but) every runner needs to be aware that even if you are having a bad race, your team might be having a good race. You need every spot. It doesn’t matter if you feel, ‘Oh my God, I just don’t have it today.’ You still try because your place might make all the difference.”
The Spartans had places to spare with the strong finishes posted by all of their runners. The win was a culmination of a decade of work, said Wilson.
“When I started coaching this team about 10 years ago we had three members on the team,” he said. “And now we routinely have 50 or 60 kids join the team each year. We always have big teams.”
Wilson laughed when asked if cross-country running had become a “cool” sport at Sentinel.
“I’m not sure I’d ever call cross-country cool – there’s too much mud and dirt and blood – but we’ve definitely created a bit of a critical mass,” he said. “We get lots of athletes who are not runners who want to join. … It’s amazing how many kids just come out, race after race – they’re not at the front of the pack, they’re at the back of the pack but they’re there for all four races, they’re enjoying the team spirit, they all win the North Shore banner. When we win the North Shore banner, that’s a team banner. There are a lot of kids that contribute to that.”
On the individual side Carson Graham’s Sophie Konrad scored the lone medal for North Shore runners at provincials, claiming silver in the junior girls race. Other top-10 finishes included Handsworth’s Charlie Dannatt who was fourth in the senior boys race and Jack Dannatt who was fourth in junior boys. Argyle’s Charlotte Prangley was seventh in junior girls.