© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustratedhannahbennison_flash

The Okanagan Valley School District hosted a cross-country classic Saturday, November 5th at Kelowna’s Telemark Nordic Ski Club. Situated at 1100-metres of elevation and approximately 30-kilometres west of downtown Kelowna, the course offered several hills on a 2.25K loop of grass, mud and chip trails.

British Columbia’s best middle-school and high-school runners showed up and raced hard for the large crowd that assembled under cloudy and cool conditions.

Over 840 runners from all corners of the province took in four races: junior boys and junior girls and senior boys and senior girls. All ran two laps for an approximate distance of 4.5K, except the senior boys who ran three laps and 6.7K.

The junior girls led the meet off at 10:00 AM with 197 athletes toeing-the-line.

Mia Bennison representing Vernon Senior Secondary School bested a deep field. This was her third consecutive win in three weeks. She won the junior zone race that took place on the same course less than two weeks before. Bennison then took first at the BC Club Cross Country Championships that took place in Beban Park in Nanaimo last Saturday. She won again, but her victory wasn’t assured until late in the race.

She was followed in by Sophie Konrad for second and Annika Ariano who placed third.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” said Konrad on her second place finish. “I came in thinking that I would like to get top-10. Tactically it wasn’t my best race, but I am very happy with the position.”

The girls went through half-way close together, but it was in the treed area away from the spectators where the field was strung out. Bennison broke the tape in 19:04. Konrad is credited with a 19:12 finish time, while Ariano representing W.L. Seaton was just four seconds back. Konrad attends Carson-Graham secondary in North Vancouver.

nobbsflas4In the junior boy’s race Logan McDonald of Sardis Secondary in Chilliwack took the field out at a good pace and like the junior girls race, he spread the field out in the hills during the second lap.

Logan Hwang of Westsyde Secondary in Kamloops ended up in second place. The two finished a second apart crossing the line in 17:09 and 17:10, respectively. Kelowna’s own Brock Hoel finished third, recording a 17:18 performance. He represented Heritage Christian online school.

In the senior girls race there was no doubt as to who the pre-race favourite was and she didn’t disappoint. Hannah Bennison of Vernon (older sister of Mia) took the lead early and increased it as the race went on. However, Surrey’s Christina Sevsek ran a very strong race to finish just four seconds back. Julie Sevsek finished third in the time of 18:11. The Sevsek sisters go to Clayton Heights Senior Secondary.

Asked if she was surprised at how close Christina Sevsek was, Bennison said, “No actually. I know she has been training hard for this and so have I. We both wanted it and she ran a great race.”

Some of the top girls from this race will compete in Kingston, Ontario at the national cross-country championships at the end of November, to try to make Team Canada and to run in the IAAF World Track and Field Championships junior race. Worlds will be taking place in Kampala, Uganda on March 26, 2017.

Bennison has represented Canada once before during the IAAF Youth Track and Field Championships that took place in Cali, Colombia.

“I want to make the world’s team,” said Bennison. “I love the team environment and going through the process with teammates. I am looking forward to the opportunity to race at nationals.”

The Sevsek sisters will be in Kingston as well.

Taryn O’Neill, a local athlete who attends George Elliot finished fourth. She took nearly a year off of hard training as she broke her femur. O’Neill is on the comeback and looked strong throughout the race.

In the senior boys race, Thomas Nobbs of Point Grey Secondary was looking for redemption Saturday. The previouschristinasevsek_flash week in Nanaimo, he had a sub-par race according to his own standards and ended up jogging in dejected and well back in the field, in a race where he was expected to contend for the win.

He made that comeback in Kelowna, but found Tyler Dozzi of Oak Bay High School too tough to handle. Dozzi prevailed in convincing fashion.

Originally from Terrace, but now living in Victoria to focus on training under the guidance of two-time Olympian Bruce Deacon, Dozzi has made big strides. It was a needed move, if he wanted to improve, as the winter training in Terrace was tough and competition is far away, which was made no more poignant than by two high schools from Terrace that drove for 19 hours to compete in the event Saturday, an event that lasted just 2.5 hours.

“Everything that I have accomplished in running I owe to Bruce Deacon,” shared Dozzi, shortly after his impressive victory. He celebrated as such, clearly pleased with the win.

During the first lap of the three-lap race, there was a group of approximately a dozen runners who were packed tightly together. Nobbs wasn’t taking chances and sat back a little.

As the runners came through for the second lap, the crowd began to thin out, but Nobbs was still in contention and Dozzi was looking very relaxed.

Dozzi and Nobbs attacked during the final lap and Dozzi took a commanding lead and powered his way to the finish, clearly in control.

“Downhill is my strong point and that last part is downhill and flat and I just took advantage,” added Dozzi.

Dozzi and Nobbs will also be at the national event and looking for a spot on Team Canada.

dozzi_flashDozzi finished in 24:23, while Nobbs finished in 24:56 and Roberto Playo-Mezzone of St. George’s finished third in 25:06.

“I had no idea what to expect because even though I ran well in zones, I just thought that maybe the competition there wasn’t as good,” shared Playo-Mezzone.

Results are available at www.racedaytiming.ca.

Meet information is available at www.bcxc.ca.

Race footage and post-race interviews will be on the site soon, please check back often.

National Cross Country Championships are taking place on Saturday, November 26th in Kingston. They will be streamed live by AthleticsCanada.tv.

Schedule is as follows

9:00 am U18 Girls 4k
9:30 am U18 Boys 6k
10:10 am Community Races 2.5k & 5k
10:15 am U18 Awards
10:45 am Masters 8k
12:00 pm U20 Women 6k
12:45 pm U20 Men 8k
1:30 pm Masters Awards
1:50 pm U20 Awards
2:30 pm Open (Senior) Women 10k
3:30 pm Open (Senior) Men 10k
4:30 pm Open (Senior) Awards