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Lakefield College School to host OFSAA cross-country championships on Nov. 6

The independent school north of Peterborough, Ont., has hosted three high school meets this season

Photo by: Simon Spivey

High school racing in Ontario, as in all other provinces, has been on hold for almost two years due to the pandemic. This season, Lakefield College School (a co-educational, independent school a few kilometres north of Peterborough, Ont.) has stepped into the breach, hosting four meets: the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA) Invitational, the Kawarthas Regional Qualifier (for local area public schools), the Independent School Qualifier, and on Nov. 6, the OFSAA cross-country championships.

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For Ontario’s high schoolers, it had been pushing two years since they last laced on a pair of spikes or run a race against anyone other than themselves, but for LCS runners Ali Abell and Thomas Larson and Peterborough-area runners Eric Unger and Grace Murphy, time away from active competition may have solidified their dominance of the sport.

If there was a race in southern Ontario, there was a very good chance Lakefield College was hosting it. With the approval of Peterborough Public Health and the guidance of Public Health Ontario, as well as support from local school boards, high school athletes in the surrounding area stepped to the line. 

Photo: Elise Moore

It’s a different world now, but in many ways, it is cross-country running that has been most able to adapt to the changes required by health and education authorities. Running is an outdoor event. Athletes can socially distance prior to the race, stay masked until the minute before the starting gun fires, and, due to Lakefield College’s large campus and broad trails, athletes can be widely spaced. Additionally, in adherence with provincial guidelines, spectators, aside from coaches and athletes directly connected to the event, are not been permitted. This mandate will continue to be enforced at OFSAA.

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Cross-country races are deceptively complicated, and while the sport is simple, even minimal, convening a race is not. Races require course marshals, starters, registration volunteers, timers, timing equipment and expertise, a safe course to run on and, finally, someone to oversee all of these moving parts. Lakefield College’s associate faculty and local area teachers helped do everything from registration to crewing the start and finish line. Teachers and volunteers directed athletes through the course and the LCS maintenance team physically put the fences up and the poles in the ground. But above all, races need vision, resources and will.

Photo: Simon Spivey

That vision came from race convenor and LCS faculty member, Todd Harris. “For years our campus has played host to Nordic ski races, but the ski trails didn’t lend themselves to more than a broken ankle for the runner come spring,” says Harris. “It just made sense that with running being a sport on the rise at LCS, that we expand the use of what we have, instead of leaving the fields fallow for another season.” 

After two years with no events at all, this years’ races will be the ones athletes remember, not because they ran well or poorly, won or lost, but simply because they happened. For Lakefield College School, it marks the beginning of a new chapter. “I’m excited to see people enjoying the trails all year long, and so happy that we can share our beautiful campus for these events,” says Harris.  

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When the pandemic is over, LCS looks forward to welcoming members of the local community to enjoy the trails. The OFSAA Cross Country Running Championship is on Saturday, Nov. 6 and can be live-streamed via AthleticsCanada.tv (Runnerspace subscription required).