Lacombe was host to the Canadian Western Alberta Junior High Athletic Association (CWAJHAA) Cross Country Championship last week.
The event was well attended with a number of supporting parents and students to cheer on the hundreds of junior high racers who were competing. The race consisted of students from Grades 6 – 9, with two levels of courses that were run at the Canadian University College campus.
“Just in general, it’s great to see junior high kids coming together for a big event like that. There were many stories of kids that had definitely improved running times on the big stage and were able to put a really good race together,” said Lacombe Junior High Coach Rory Whitbread.
The racers were divided by grade and gender for a total of eight races that day.
Whitbread said all four of the Lacombe schools that took part had a successful day overall, with great reviews from students, staff and parents who attended the event.
Whitbread said the Lacombe Christian School usually has a great running club, and this year was no exception. Father Lacombe and Terrace Ridge schools only had a select few students participate in the event, but Whitbread reported that all attendees enjoyed themselves and their chance to participate.
He was quite proud of the students from Lacombe Junior High and was happy to note that there was a number of top 10 finishes from his team.
“We had several top 10 finishes which we were very excited about. We had a fourth place finish, I think three different sixth place finishes and a number of other top 10 finishes as well. To be able to host the event in our hometown, not far from the school, at a place where we got to practice made for a great day,” said Whitbread.
After the event, Whitbread asked some of the other coaches to tell him about how they felt the day went. Brian Johnson from Hunting Hills High School in Red Deer said that the entire event was “Very well organized and an excellent course for the runners. All of the little details in the event turned kids onto cross country running and honoured a great sport.”
Other coaches had similar praise including Cecilia Tarnasky of Caroline School who said that her runners very much enjoyed their first experience at a CWAJHAA event, due to the level of organization and effort put forth into planning the event.
“I should say thank you to the many local businesses who stepped up to contribute and help us out with the event. I want to thank everyone who came out to watch. It’s fairly likely that we will be hosting the event again next year, so we would like to make it bigger and better than ever. Also, a big thanks to CUC for allowing us to use their campus – they were a fantastic help to us,” said Whitbread.
Something else that made the run meaningful for Whitbread was the fact that many of the trails designed by the late Bill Nielsen were utilized during the event. Nielsen was an avid runner and put a great deal of effort into providing Lacombe with prime running trails.
“I know it would have made Bill Nielsen very proud to have all those kids running on his trails that day,” said Whitbread. He added that many people were thinking about Nielsen on the day of event and that there were many comments about the beauty and functionality of the course from other coaches.
“It’s amazing when you see kids coming through the finish line exhausted because you know they left everything out on the course. Minutes later they are smiling and are very proud of themselves and it’s great to see them enjoying themselves.”