The day really could not have gone any better for a number of athletes on the Muskie cross-country team at the SSSAA Time Trials last Wednesday at the Kamview Ski Trails in Thunder Bay.
In the first meet of the NorWOSSA season, the junior girls' squad—comprised of Ashlyn Beck, Greta Fedoruk, Jaida Norris, and Grace Kowal—nabbed three of the top-five finishes in their division to claim the gold medal as a team.
Head coach John Dutton was blown away by the success of his runners in their first competitive race of the season.
“I couldn't be more pleased with the junior girls' performance in Thunder Bay,” he enthused.
"We were coming off two days of really intense practice so I knew that they were going in with tired legs and without any recovery time.
“I expected their times would be a little slow but they toughed it out,” Dutton lauded.
“[They] maintained a solid pace throughout the race and showed why they represented NWOSSAA at provincials last season.”
Beck was the top finisher among the junior Muskies last Wednesday—nabbing second place in the 5K race with a time of 24:36.
She was followed by Fedoruk in third (25:49) and Norris in fifth (26:21), with Kowal winding up in ninth place (29:30).
Also impressive on the day was Fort High's Midget girls' quintet, who took two of the top-five finishes.
They just missed out on capturing the gold medal by a single point.
Emma Toriseva led the way with a fourth-place finish (19:35) in the 4K race, with Montana Plasky (20:35) and Jenna Furlong (20:45) just behind.
Lexi McAdam placed 21st (26:20) while Lillian McKenzie was 32nd (30:45).
“I believe that our success as a team comes from the incredible effort the runners put into every practice,” Dutton remarked.
“Their intensity in practice not only prepares them mentally and physically to compete, but it also creates a great team spirit,” he noted.
Other standouts for the black-and-gold included Tori Toriseva and Alacea Yerxa, who placed fourth (32:52) and 11th (40:25), respectively, in the senior girls' 6K race.
James Furlong, meanwhile, wound up eighth in the junior boys' 5K (23:14).
In the Grade 7/8 girls' 4K, Alexia Gate was the top finisher in grabbing second place (18:15).
She was followed by Leah Seguin in fourth (19:14), Kiera Fairnington in ninth (20:51), and Parker Boyd in 15th (22:39).
Caden Mcinnes was tops among the Grade 7/8 boys in the 4K, running to a 12th-place finish (20:29).
There Windigo wound up 19th (23:38), Ty Wabash and Jackson Marchant tied for 20th with identical times of 23:48, while Joel Calder was 29th (29:34).
And in the senior boys' 6K, Stephan Dueck was tops among the Muskies in placing 26th (34:12).
He was followed by Ben Olson in 30th (35:22) and Romeo Deafy in 31st (37:39).
“The team ran two really difficult practices on Monday and Tuesday, rode a bus for four hours, and then ran an unfamiliar course against athletes who have the opportunity to train at Kamview,” Dutton explained.
“I treated this race just like any other practice, and the athletes had no rest or recovery time to prepare for Thunder Bay,” he reiterated.
"In fact, the day following the race, we ran hills for an hour in the pouring rain and they still gave 100 percent effort.
“Wednesday's results just reinforced my belief that these athletes are right on track to show what they are truly capable of at NWOSSAA championships on Oct. 17,” Dutton said.
The Muskies next will be in action tomorrow (Sept. 27) when they compete at the Evergreen Classic in Kenora, then head to Dryden for the annual “Turkey Trot” next Thursday (Oct. 4).
Dutton said it will be the “same old song” in terms of how his charges prepare for these meets.
“We will be working on pacing, consistent leg turnover, and reinforcing basic running form and technique,” he noted.
"Kenora is a very challenging course, and it gives us the opportunity to see how well our hill training is going.
“I am very pleased with the way things are going," Dutton added. ”Spirits are high, and cardio and strength building is going really well.
“I guess our greatest challenges going forward are to stay injury-free, and to not get discouraged by two weeks of cold and rainy weather conditions.”