Every few years a surprise team shows up as a major contender in the Island high school cross country series.
This year it was the Reynolds secondary boys team, taking the Island Cross Country Championship team title at Beaver Lake on Oct. 24. Reynolds beat out perennial powerhouses Oak Bay High, which came second, and Nanaimo’s Dover Bay secondary, in third.
“The (Reynolds) boys lost their minds a bit just because it was so unexpected,” said Reynolds coach Brad Cunningham. “We knew we had a deep team, but Oak Bay and Dover Bay are so strong, and (fourth-place) Mount Douglas too.”
Ben Weir of Glenlyon Norfolk School set a course record as the top male, completing the 6.7-kilometre course in 20 minutes, 42 seconds, three seconds ahead of Liam Kennel of Oak Bay High. Thomas Getty of Mount Doug took third, 30 seconds later, a sweep by the trio of teammates who train together at the city’s elite high school track and field program.
Pacing the second group of male runners (Weir and Kennel were the lead pack) at Beaver Lake was Reynolds’ Seamus Maguire, as usual. Maguire is the reigning B.C. high school 800-metre champion and a “frontrunner” who likes to lead out. Close behind Maguire was Erik Evans, among the pack of Weir, Kennel and Getty. Evans overtook Maguire as they finished fourth and sixth, respectively. Key to the Reynolds’ win was getting five runners in the top 25, a feat that will prove challenging against the rest of the province this weekend. Taylor Lyman, a Grade 9 student, finished an impressive race at 16th overall, with teammates Thomas Thierbach in 19th and Jon McKay in 23rd.
“We’ve been fifth the last few years so it’s great we finally get to go to provincials,” Cunningham said.
The top four teams qualfiy for provincials in Prince George on Saturday (Nov. 3). Reynolds will be sending the maximum seven runners, same as with Oak Bay, Dover Bay and Mount Doug. Reynolds had three girls on the team, Elizabeth Underhill, Solene Berthelot and Klara Hlavon.
Only Hlavon (Grade 11) will make the trip to Prince George. She finished 21st overall.
“We’re not a traditional cross country school, so this is a special year and it’s one that’s been four years in the making,” said Cunningham, a former competitive triathlete. “When Maguire and Evans came together four years ago I thought, ‘huh, we have something here.’”
Reynolds is a “ragtag group” of exceptional athletes, Cunningham explained, as most of them have another sport that is their main focus.
Evans is a triathlete who trains under local youth coach Kelly Guest. Maguire is a Saanich junior Braves hockey player hoping to crack the B.C. Hockey League.
Thierbach is a competitive curler and McKay spends most of his time in the pool as an aspiring swimmer.
“In a way, they are good runners and had the races of their lives. They committed to this team even though they’re specialized in other disciplines.”