By Darren Lum
Published Sept. 26 2017
Minutes after the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s cross-country team finished its first practice with hill repeaters coach Russ Duhaime spoke excitedly about the largest turnout in recent memory.
With 18 members on paper the team is far and away larger than last year’s team of seven.
“There’s lot of enthusiasm and really good talent” he said.
This sport gives athletes of all levels an opportunity for success unlike any other he said.
“You can achieve at any level. You can be the best in Ontario and that’s great or you could run your personal best which is just as great of an achievement” he said. “Everyone can feel good about it.”
The team has been training three days a week for the past three weeks and will increase training to five days (excluding competition days) this week until Kawartha in October.
Duhaime can’t hide his bias for this sport.
“Of course this is the best sport. Morning practices. You get up. The sun is coming up. The mist is on lakes and it’s beautiful” he said.
This year’s team will have representatives in every category from midget (Grade 9) junior (Grade 10) and senior (Grade 11 and 12). A team requires four members per age group.
This year with the large contingent every placing for the boys will be integral for team success. There are foursomes for the midget boys’ junior boys’ and senior boys’ teams. There aren’t enough girls for any one category to constitute a team.
The team will send its competitive members (a few are working out with the team for recreation) to Arrowhead Provincial Park for the Hoyas Hills XC Invitational event on Wednesday Sept. 27 hosted by Huntsville High School in Muskoka. Next on the schedule is an invitational event in Petawawa. The Kawartha event is Oct. 18 at the Ken Reid Conservation area north of Lindsay followed by the Central Ontario of School Athletic Associations championships on Oct. 25.
Duhaime hopes the school will be able to send a representative to Petawawa for the all-provincials Ontario Federation Secondary School Association championships.
The coaching staff includes experienced runners Kyra Cockwell Catherine Andress and Karen Gervais. Duhaime appreciates their support expertise and experience.
The greater turnout means a brighter future for the high school team possibly drawing Grade 9s and continuing this upward trend of popularity for cross-country.
“Here’s the perfect example” he said watching a group of young runners pass by. “We got the JDHES cross-country team out running the hill. I think the potential for kids to join the team is greater when you’ve got numbers. We’ve got good numbers this year which makes it more likely that kids will want to join. It’s a lonely sport as it is. You’re running individually and all that so it’s more fun if you’ve got bigger numbers.”