Local girls dominate OFSAA cross country

[attach]7189[/attach]Four Grade 9 girls from two local high schools and the same training club all but ruled the pack at the 2013 OFSAA cross country championships Nov. 2 in Sudbury.

In the provincial midget finals, on the natural trails of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Kylee Raftis, of Bishop Strachan School, finished in second place with a time of 10:24, less than a second behind winner Shona McColloch of Nepean.

Emily Cohen, of Lawrence Park Collegiate, finished 18 seconds behind, for fourth place. Teammate Natali Robinson finished fifth and Bishop Strachan’s Miranda Thompson took sixth.

The four girls, who train together at Central Toronto Athletic Club, took the lead pack early on in the race — taking place — and stayed in front until the end.

Raftis said by email later that she was pleased to have taken second place but she is left wanting more.

“My goal was to come first, like usual, but after finishing that race I still felt like a winner because of how close me and first place was, and from how much hard work and determination I put into the race and all my training I have done,” she said.

Cohen, who had won gold Oct. 22 in the Toronto city championships, says she was happy with her performance at her first provincial finals. And she was glad to have her friends and teammates running with her at OFSAA.

“It was good to have friends up there with me,” Cohen remarked. “We help each other along the way and push each other and are happy for each other when one does well.

“It’s very supportive.”

Dave Christiani, head coach of the 120-member CTAC, said he was humbled by the girls’ performance. The local club that trains school-age athletes in high performance long distance running came into existence only in January. Despite having had only one season of training under their belts, though, he was not surprised, he said.

“We know what amount of work these girls are doing and we’re just thrilled to see them succeed at what’s best called ‘age-appropriate training,’ but it wasn’t — and I hate to brag — unexpected,” said Christiani, from his home in Leaside. “Emily is the North American age class under-14 800 metre champion.”

Provincially, Cohen and Raftis are ranked in the top 5 for their age class in middledistance track racing.

“These are quality athletes and they just love to run,” Christiani said. “We had some high expectations that we kept to ourselves, given what they’ve done in the past.

“To see it happen was absolutely thrilling.”

Raftis and Cohen embody an attitude of confidence, and the club’s training regimen matches their expectations, putting the girls to task. According to Raftis, Christiani preaches foresight and good planning, insisting on adjusting training tempo and intensity between running days with Bishop Strachan and the days running with CTAC.

“Ever since I started training with this club, it has really changed how much I love running, and thinking back I do not know what I would do if I had not been training with CTAC,” Raftis said.

Cohen noted Christiani’s implementation of a variety of workouts, including tempo workouts — slow- and fast-paced running — interval training and sprint workouts.

“It’s really good coaching and it’s really fun, but it’s also very competitive because each workout we’re pushing each other,” Cohen said.

The race, a muddy affair, had its fair share of steep inclines and muddy patches that proved tricky for the runners — not to mention a group of 200 runners trying to elbow to the front.

“I thought it was one of the toughest cross-country courses that I have run on, especially having a lot of mud and puddles as big obstacles throughout the race,” Raftis said. “When I woke up the morning of OFSAA, and saw snow on the ground and knowing the course would be still wet from the previous day, I didn’t really have any type of strategy except to run my hardest ever and to run extra careful when going on the downhills, since it was very slippery.”

Despite the obstacles, the CTAC girls met a goal they had set in September: becoming top 10 finishers at OFSAA.

The club was well represented at the OFSAA event. Five placed in the top 5 of their races, three in the top 20, two in the top 50 and eight in the top 100 in six races over the day.