The 2021 British Columbia Cross Country Championships took place Saturday at Beaver Lake Park in Saanich. Five hundred and 15 athletes aged nine to 72 took in the meet hosted by the Prairie Inn Harriers running club. A fierce autumn storm threatened, but the sun shone and instead it was the athletes who were kicking up a storm.

Senior men’s race

The men’s senior race was won by the newly married UBC Alumn, John Gay, who went to the front early and continued to build on the lead. He opened up a big gap on the field after the second of four laps. The chasers included Thomas Nobbs, Cameron Proceviat, and Tyler Dozzi. Proceviat sat in fourth position most of the race until he passed Dozzi over the final 200m.

Dozzi, however, looked stronger than he had a few weeks earlier at the University of Victoria Vikes invitational, where Nobbs had gapped him early and kept the lead throughout the race. 

John Gay winning the 2021 BC Cross Country Championships. Photo credit: Joseph Camilleri

Gay was representing the Vancouver Thunderbirds Club, while Nobbs and Dozzi are current UBC Thunderbirds teammates. Proceviat is with Simon Fraser University. 

Gay’s finish time over the windy, rolling course was 23:26, 11 seconds ahead of Nobbs. Nobbs and Proveviat clocked finish times of 23:37 and 23:39, respectively. The Vancouver Thunderbirds placed five finishers in the top-31, while the UBC Thunderbirds placed five in the top 14.

I’m really pleased with how today went. Getting back into a race environment, especially cross country after nearly two years away, was a welcome breakup of the training block I’ve been in,” shared Gay. “Coach CJ (Chris Johnson) and I wanted to test the fitness today by making it an honest pace from the gun, which is likely what I’ll face in Ottawa. I’d say mission accomplished and I’m excited to be setting my sights on ACXC in five weeks’ time!”

Gay and other top finishers in each age category will represent BC at the national cross country championships taking place in Ottawa on November 27 at Wesley Clover Parks.

Senior women’s race

Like the men’s race, the women’s race didn’t offer much drama up front, just a commanding display of fitness by the leaders, the excitement was in the chase packs and athletes exchanging leads and jostling for position.

Sarah Inglis was expected to compete for the win with Canadian 3000m steeplechase record holder and two-time Olympian Genevieve Lalonde. Inglis has had a great three weeks of racing while Lalonde has been busy training and won’t be backing off the mileage until the week of the nationals. Lalonde finished second.

Inglis, known for going out hard from the gun, didn’t make a move until at least halfway into the race. She sat in a pack that had a varying parade of leaders for the first two laps. Lisa Brooking had the early lead and looked strong throughout.

“I am really happy with the race,” shared Inglis. “I sat in with girls and then pushed the last lap.”

Rebecca Bassett back from three years of injury, niggles and the pandemic is excited to be back racing and she competed well. While Inglis improved her own Royal Victoria 8K course record two weeks prior clocking a 25:35 finish time and then a 31:59 in Toronto the following week in the 10K, won again Saturday.

Bassett finished sixth, within a minute of Inglis. It was another strong comeback performance for the Nanaimo native.

“I am just so grateful to be back to regular running and getting a chance to race again,” said Bassett. “Most of us work full time now, so it is a great distraction to get out and train. So, I am now enjoying running and racing, but not taking it so seriously.”

She is now in the lower mainland training with the Langley Mustangs Endurance Group under coach Mark Bomba and with Inglis and several other competitors who were also in the race.

Inglis is teaching full-time and coaching students. Once her race was over, she was busy managing the team. It’s a hectic life but someone has to live it.

Alycia Butterworth finished third, the three top finishers clocked times of 27:13, 27:31, and 27:58, respectively. Brooking hung on and took fourth in the time of 28:00.

Angelina Shandro won the U20 women’s race. She moved to middle distances after trying her hand at sprinting. It was a surprise win for the University of Toronto student who was formerly and again being coached by Bruce Deacon.

“I really like running longer. I also enjoy cross country and trail running. Building the aerobic base and then using the sprint ability I think helped, as the plan was to sit and kick, which I did.”

Abby Yliplakhala finished in second place while Sandra Cockburn took third. The three went 21:42, 22:58, and 23:17, respectively over the three-lap, 6K course.

In the men’s U18 5K race Caiden Lee with Ocean Athletics and Tion McLeish with Victoria Speed Project ran the first 3K of the 5K race exchanging leads, then Lee dropped the pace and gapped McLeish. Yemane Mulugeta also with Ocean caught McLeish who faded late, taking third.

Sara Inglis wins the 2021 BC Cross Country Championships. Photo credit: Joseph Camilleri

Lee clocked a 15:16 finish time, while Mulugeta and McLeish finished in 15:35 and 15:43, respectively.

In the men’s U20 race, which was mixed with the senior’s race, surprise BC champion Dylan Uhrich with the UBC Thunderbirds was quite pleased with the title. He will also be donning the BC singlet for the team portion of the National Cross Country Championships.

Meanwhile, Ruby Broadbent of the Victoria Speed Project — a training group led by Dacre Bowen — was turning heads. New to distance running the soccer player went straight to the lead kept and built it throughout the race. Jaune Klaus and Christina Peet Williams duked it out for most of the 4K race before a gap emerged during the final 700 metres. Klaus took second in the time of 13:40, while Peet Williams finished four seconds back. Broadbent, looking relaxed clocked a finish time of 13:05.

Broadbent is in new territory and is enjoying the discovery of her natural talent. Meanwhile, Peet Williams like most high school athletes at this level is considering which university to attend.

“We are getting a lot of calls from within Canada and the US, and it is a difficult decision,” shared Peet Williams. She plans to study Environmental Sciences. Lucky for the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, they are potential frontrunners.

With Olympians Malindi Elmore in Kelowna and Hilary Stellingwerff in Victoria, she can’t go wrong.

Post-race interviews, footage here>>

Full results are available at www.racedaytiming.ca

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