Heather Dutton would rather race 20 kilometres through a hurricane than put up with media requests for her time.
“I hate doing interviews,” said Dutton with an apologetic look on her face, just three days after posting a time of 17:59 to finish second in the senior girls division at the NWOSSAA cross-country running championships in Thunder Bay this past Friday.
With the top three in each division at the NWOSSAA meet moving on to the provincials in Renfrew on Oct. 30-31, her performance in the 4.6-kilometre event made her the first Muskie to qualify for the all-Ontarios since the cross-country program was reborn at Fort High last year after a long hiatus.
Dutton may not have the gift of gab when it comes to talking to reporters, but her quickness is an infinitely more crucial aspect of her success than her quotability.
“I’m very excited, and proud to be able to represent my school,” said Dutton, who finished first and third in two previous time trials this fall and whose time at the NWOSSAA meet was a full minute faster than her last outing Oct. 8.
“I didn’t expect that I would make it, but I thought I had a pretty good chance.”
Dutton credited her additional training to coming through in the clutch in a race where she was most concerned with keeping an eye on the competition.
“I knew who the girl was that beat me before, so I just wanted to make sure I kept her in reach, and I knew that I would be okay to make the top three,” said Dutton, who is shooting for a top-50 finish at the all-Ontarios.
Muskie coach Doris Barton said Dutton was in the right frame of mind entering the race.
“It was in her mind to try to make all-Ontarios, although she didn’t want to dwell on it too much,” said Barton, who joked that the laid-back runner’s post-race reaction was one of excitement, “or as excited as Heather gets, anyway.”
Sonja Schulzki gave the Muskies two runners in the top 10 in the division, coming in eighth with a time of 19:10.
Other locals competing in the group were Jennifer Geense, who took 16th spot (20:12), while her sister Rachel Geense came in 48th (24:18).
The Muskies junior boys contingent gave the school its second podium finish, as they took second in the team event despite none of the four local competitors placing in the top 10.
Mitchell Green paced the quartet with a time of 20:43 over the 5.7-kilometre course to finish 12th. He was followed by Austin Zin in 15th (22:24), Tyson Quibell in 22nd (24:35), and Chad Faragher in 23rd (24:43).
“I was surprised they placed that high as a group considering their individual results,” said Barton. “But it was a good, consistent performance throughout the group that made the difference.”
In the midget girls category, Sandi Elliott managed a 13th-place showing in the 3.48-kilometre race, registering a time of 14:09, while teammate Cassandra Cochrane finished right behind her in 14th with a clocking of 14:17.
Andrew Curr was the Muskies’ lone hope in the senior boys division, as he placed 34th with a time of 33:55.