The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s vice-principal Dave Waito left and principal Dan Marsden are surrounded by cases of pasta while they sported pasta vests and hat for work which was the incentive for the school to win The Great Pasta Challenge on Thursday last week. /DARREN LUM Staff

Red Hawks runners stand tall at COSSA cross country

Submitted by Karen Gervais

Published Oct. 30 2018

The HHSS Cross Country team had a bittersweet day on the COSSA trails last Wednesday.   Despite finishing their season with strong performances and personal bests by all runners the Red Hawks seemed destined to win the consolation prize that day. The COSSA meet was held at the Goodrich-Loomis conservation area just north of Brighton. This was the team’s second attempt at this course running it at an invitational meet held at the park three weeks prior.

Up and coming runner midget boy Logan Baird set the pace with his seventh place finish completing the four kilometre midget boys course a full minute faster than his previous run in a time of 14:49.29. The midget boys’ course features a really steep climb – one Baird had walked up when running the course the first time. With confidence from new cross country spikes and a focus on hill training over the last weeks he tackled this hill with ease and finishing the course strong feeling assured his performance had earned him an OFSAA berth.  The top two teams comprised of four runners and the top five individual finishes who are not part of a qualifying team earn the right to represent the association at next Saturday’s OFSAA meet held at the Christie Conservation area near Hamilton. After a suspenseful wait for the results Baird had to swallow the bitter pill that only a single runner finishing ahead of him was part of a team meaning he had only qualified as the association’s alternate who runs only if one of the qualifiers is unable to compete. Baird accepted this fate however acknowledging that he could not have run any faster than he did. Baird’s midget boys teammate Nick Phippen ran an impressive course best shaving 2:25 off his previous run on the course to finish seventh. Corin Gervais also improved his time by nearly a minute and a half to place 18th.

The five kilometre junior boys race brought more drama and suspense.   Runners Logan Heaven Teo O’Malley Jacob Dobson and Brendan Coumbs were coming into the meet as the second place Kawartha team where the week before in Peterborough the boys had run a dynamic team race spurring each other on to seventh 12th 13th and 14th place finishes respectively. The boys’ motivation at COSSA was fuelled by the recognition that they were serious contenders for an OFSAA team qualifying spot and began to view themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the trails. This drive translated to energy and team support as the boys once again stuck together to drive each other to new race bests. Logan Heaven led the Red Hawk junior boys with a 11th place finish making a strong move at the end of the race to secure one more team point.  Logan communicated his concern about the white team – Nicholson – to his teammates as ones they needed to beat. Teo O’Malley followed Heaven with a 17th place also making determined passes on the final hill and Coumbs followed in 20th and Dobson in 21st. Driven by the team effort the boys each shaved off a minimum of 90 seconds from their previous times when the team scored fifth at the invitational meet three weeks before. Coumbs running with his arm in a cast from a hockey injury improved his time on this five kilometre course by three minutes and 24 seconds. The boys once again waited in anticipation for official results and once again our OFSAA hopes were dashed.  The Red Hawks finished one point behind Nicholson with an overall team total of 69 leaving them one point shy of an OFSAA berth. It has been many years since the Hawks have qualified a team for OFSAA.

As the junior boys received their disappointing news first year senior Isaac Little prepared with teammate Shawn Walker.  Little was third at the Kawartha meet the week before where Walker had a strong run for a sixth place finish.  Little’s training this year was marred by injury and time commitments to hockey a severely sprained ankle at the very first practice of the season putting him out for two weeks.  As noted by one of his competitors who follows all the top runners in the region Little’s times continued to show the most dramatic improvement throughout the season as he strove to reach his potential as a runner. The senior boys six kilometre run consisted of a one kilometre loop a four kilometre one then a repeat of the one kilometre loop. The Hawks blasted off at the start putting themselves in a strong position in a field of very talented runners four of whom placed in the top 30 at OFSAA last year. Both Little and Walker shaved a full minute off their times from their previous runs on the course with Little finishing in 10th in a time of 21:54.68 and Walker following in 21st.   And the Hawks waited again for results. And Little was awarded the OFSAA alternate spot again competing only in the event another competitor is unable to. As a Grade 12 graduating student this was Walker’s last meet and his commitment to the program will be missed. Walker is looking forward to running during the track and field season in the spring before he hangs up his spikes however.

The coaches were thrilled with the team’s results knowing all athletes had left nothing in reserve approaching their run and supporting their team with heart and determination. They are anticipating continuing to grow the team hoping to field full teams in all categories next year with a goal of having some female runners on the team as well. Coaches are community volunteer Kyra Cockwell and  Hal High staff Karen Gervais Melinda Snyder and Catherine Andress.