As promised, I am focusing on my Team Over The Top teen runners’ results from the Ontario Federation of Secondary Schools (OFSSA) cross country running races held on Saturday, November 1 in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. To set the stage, please note that it poured rain ALL DAY Friday, October 31. To top that off, Saturday broke with a snow fall and temperatures hovering around 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) or freezing. The course was muddy, slippery and just flat out nasty. Having said that, it was the same conditions for all runners.
The other point I want to make is the quality of the OFSSA field – in all age categories. Each race has between 250 and 300 competitors who have QUALIFIED regionally simply to make it to OFSSA. In other words, these are the best of the best from the most populous, competitive province in Canada. Some of the kids in each age group are WORLD ranked cross country runners. That is correct…WORLD RANKED! Many of them also belong to running clubs in their cities that focus exclusively on cross-country running. They train year-round with little to no other activities to interfere with their progress. The coaches are in many cases professional or semi-professional – in other words, some of the best technical minds in Canada.THUS, THESE ARE NOT RACES FOR THE WEAK OF HEART NOR THE WEAK OF SOUL. Just to make it to OFSSA in any sport is a fantastic accomplishment.
My 2 TOTT teens ran their guts out – they showed no FEAR, took no prisoners, fought through adversity and came out the other end better for the experience.
- Miles Emerson (age 14 and in Grade 9 at Father Redmond SS in Toronto) qualified 4th in his age group at the City of Toronto finals. At OFSSA, he started out strong but then fell in a particularly rough section of the course. By the time he recovered and got back into the race, he had dropped back 44 places! In spite of this, he pushed on to finish in an amazing time of 19:11 over the 5 kilometres – only 1 minute slower than his Toronto finals time – coming 100th out of 261 (in the top 38%!) Considering the goal going in was a top 40 finish, Miles was somewhat disappointed. This was somewhat alleviated by the fact that he fell and was passed by so many others (it tells you just how competitive the field is when you make just 1 mistake and fall back so far!). What I love about the kid is his compete level. He simply refuses to quit – mentally digging deep no matter what the obstacle ). Miles is motivated to focus more on cross-country running now – my guess is we will see him back at OFSSA 3 more times, finishing in the top 20 to 30
- Paige Belo (age 17 and in Grade 12 at Father Leger SS in Brampton) also qualified 4th but in ROPSSA. Being an OFSSA ‘veteran’ (this was Paige’s 3rd…and final…OFSSA), she knew what to expect. Having never finished above the top 80, the writing was on the wall…go out hard and hold the hell on! This was Paige’s last shot in OFSSA and she was going to give it her all. Slogging through the mud, she found the going particularly tough – some kids are better ‘mudders’ than others. As a result, she dropped further back as the 5 kilometre race wore on. In the end, Paige finished 125th out of 298 (in the top 42%!). What I love about her is the attitude toward life. She takes on challenges without complaining, focuses on the task at hand and gets the job done. Even after the disappointment of not having a great race, she commented, “hey, Jeff. It wasn’t the result I expected. The course was really muddy BUT IT WAS A FUN RACE!”. You simply MUST respect a response like that
I’m not certain what is in store for Miles and Paige long term. My gut tells me they will both be positive difference-makers who will exell in whatever they do in life. As a coach, it’s a pleasure to train kids like them. Whether they finish 1st or last, they NEVER disappoint.