The Muskie cross-country team has been battle tested all year and came through with some more impressive performances at the OFSAA championships in Sudbury on Saturday.
Capping the year in style, and adding more to a lengthy list of accomplishments for the team, 10 of the 17 athletes Fort High sent to the all-Ontarios finished within the top 200 of their respective races.
“I think that our runners would all say that OFSAA was a rewarding experience,” said Muskie coach John Dutton.
"Our large number of qualifiers made it necessary to travel by bus and our extended time together helped us to gel even more as a team.
“Before and following each race, every runner felt the overwhelming support of their teammates, lots of hugs, lots of high fives, lots of respect: what could be more rewarding than that?”
After winning every NorWOSSA race this season, Trent Wilson again was a star for the Muskies at OFSAA on Saturday as he ran to a fifth-place finish in the Novice boys' 4K race.
Wilson clocked in with an outstanding time of 14:31.20 in the 263-runner field to crack the top 10 of the entire province—a first in Fort High's history.
He was followed by Caden McGinnis in 147th (16:59.39), Maverick Morrisseau in 174th (17:14.71), and Jackson Marchant in 255th (20:40.48).
Alexia Gate was able to crack the top 100 in the Novice girls' 4K race, winding up 68th in the 255-runner field with a time of 17:58.06.
She was followed by Leah Seguin in 124th (18:45.26), Chloe Dolyny in 147th (19:14.96), and Arianna Hyatt in 248th (23:49.64).
“Lexi Gate placed 68th, that is the highest placing for a Fort High female in my 13 years working with the team,” Dutton noted.
"It is a huge accomplishment for Lexi and for Fort High running. But Trent's fifth-place finish places him in an elite category as a Novice runner. And the margin between Trent and a Bronze medal was only 10 seconds over the 4K course.
“Trent's result also gave him the best place finish among the 60 plus athletes who competed for NWOSSAA in Sudbury,” he added.
“But whether they ran fifth or 250th—every Fort High team member ran a great race at OFSAA.”
To put things in perspective Dutton said that it is important to note that most of the runners in Sudbury on Saturday are from communities between Windsor and Kingston, which is within an hour or two of the 401 Highway.
“And there are thousands of high school runners from Southern Ontario who compete for the opportunity to run at OFSAA,” he noted.
“By comparison, the NWOSSAA championships can boast about 200 athletes over the six age/gender categories. It is no small accomplishment to be from one of the over 270 high schools represented at OFSAA and to place better than hundreds of other runners.”
Montana Plasky had the top showing for the Muskies in the junior girls' 5K race in placing 150th in the 253-runner field with a time of 25:33.60.
Emma Toriseva was just behind in 152nd (25:35.65).
Corbin Riches wound up 150th out of 256 runners in the in the junior boys' 5K race, clocking in with a time of 21:54.74.
In senior action, meanwhile, Greta Fedoruk was tops among the Muskies in finishing 163rd out of 261 runners in the girls' 6K race with a time of 30:57.11.
She was followed by Ashlyn Beck in 168th (31:15.17), Tori Toriseva in 201st (32:34.81), Jaida Norris in 210th (32:56.09), and Alacea Yerxa in 247th (36:42.89).
Owen Riches was the lone competitor for Fort High in the senior boys' 6K race, winding up 219th in the 264-runner field with a time of 26:25.94 to round out the Muskie finishes at OFSAA.
“The Sudbury course, with its many hills and tight turns, provided the athletes with lots of challenges but it was the weather that presented the greatest difficulty,” Dutton recalled.
"The week leading up to the race had been rainy, leaving parts of the course very wet. But Thursday night, about 15-20cm of snow fell on the area, and race day was a mix of snow and rain for most of the day.
“The result was slushy, sloppy conditions that made the track very slippery and some of the steeper hills very treacherous,” he noted.
"But our athletes were undaunted. A number of our senior runners lent their spikes to teammates to help combat the conditions, knowing full well that they would be putting on cold, wet, muddy spikes when their races came up.
“Running is usually considered an 'individual' sport, but I have no doubt that an abundance of team spirit contributed to our solid showing in Sudbury,” Dutton reasoned.
Moving forward, the Muskies will be losing each of Alacea Yerxa (two OFSAAs), Tori Toriseva (four OFSAAs), Taylor Meekis, Owen Riches (one OFSAA), Nick Larson, and Rylee Booth to gradution.
But Dutton is confident the Muskie cross-country team will be just as strong with who all is returning next year.
“The future looks very bright, we hope to have 20 returning athletes plus a number of our younger runners moving into Grade 9 in the fall,” he remarked.
“And who knows, maybe our success this season will encourage others to join. In the meantime, the Muskie running club starts next week and track season is only a few months away,” Dutton added.