It was a wet, muddy day along the trails at Vancouver’s Jericho Park Saturday, but the weather wasn’t enough to slow down the Elgin Park Orcas, as the South Surrey school’s runners cruised to podium finishes at BC High School Cross-Country Championships.
As a team, Elgin Park finished atop the standings at the senior boys level – breaking the provincial record for lowest team score along the way. For team scoring, the top four finishers from each school are combined, with the lowest aggregate score winning; for the purposes of team rankings, individual runners without full teams are removed from tallying of team scores. Elgin’s score of 25 was “the lowest score since the inception of the race,” Elgin coach Joshua Weiss told Peace Arch News Monday – six better than the 31 points scored by McPherson Park Secondary in 1970.
“We didn’t go into (Saturday) expecting to break any records. We didn’t even know about it (beforehand) but we just kind of had everything go right, in spite of the conditions,” Weiss continued. “The conditions were what good cross-country is – muddy and slippery. In those conditions, you run with heart – skill and speed goes out the window when it’s (raining) like that.
“You have to have a good fitness level, and a good mentality and resolve.”
Individually, they were led by junior-aged Connor Nichol, who won the five-km senior boys race in a time of 16 minutes, three seconds, which was 17 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Tion McLeish of St. Michael’s University School in Victoria.
A week earlier, Nichol placed second at South Fraser Championships, which were held at Crescent Park. He finished behind only Semiahmoo runner Caiden Lee, who was third at provincials, just six seconds back of McLeish.
As a team, Semiahmoo was fourth overall among senior boys squads.
Three of the top four finishers – Nichol, Lee and L.A. Matheson’s Yemane Mulugeta, who finished fourth – are also members of the Semiahmoo Peninsula’s Ocean Athletics Track and Field Club.
The other three runners that contributed to Elgin’s record-breaking senior boys score were James Hodgson, who was seventh overall individually; Kaelem Dumont, who was 12th and Isaac Baker, who was 13th.
“They’re phenoms – they ran the races of their lives,” Weiss said of Nichol and Hodgson, who are both only in Grade 10 despite running at the senior level. “I don’t think they know quite how good they can be yet.”
Elgin Park’s other highlight Saturday came in the four-km junior girls race, where Maelle Hodgson put forth a effort that Weiss could only describe as “dominant.”
Hodgson, who is the twin sister of James, ran the circuit in a blistering 17:06, which was 47 seconds faster than the second-place runner, Alexa Dow.
“There’s nobody even close to her (at the junior level),” Weiss said. “She’s a force. She hasn’t lost a race all season, which is unheard of, I think.”
Weiss was quick to credit not only his young runners for the team’s success this season, but also his fellow coach Jacob Wall, as well as former cross-country coach and longtime Elgin teacher Greg Worsley, who is still involved in the sport at a regional level, but has taken a step back from coaching.
In the senior girls five-km race, Fleetwood Park’s Viviani Li was the fastest Surrey runner, finishing seventh in a time of 19:15, while Earl Marriott’s Hayley Issel was right behind her, in eighth.
In the para race, White Rock Christian Academy’s Bennett Rehman was first, in a time of 10:36.
The junior boys race, meanwhile, was won by Pacific Academy’s Max Holmes, who finished in a time of 15:49 – 14 seconds faster than second-place finisher Elijah Headley of Maple Ridge.