Sports High School Sports

Coureurs de Bois earn a day at the beach

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


GARRISON PETAWAWA – After a summer of long runs, workouts and practices, the sprinters of the Coureurs de Bois took the day off to hit the beach.

The developmental running club, which has seen its membership reaching as high as 100 this season, hosted its annual Beach Day at Black Bear Beach last week. It was a nice break from the club's training regimen which usually takes place at Petawawa Terrace Park.

“This is our midsummer classic,” said Gary Serviss, one of the club's running coaches. “The kids have been working really hard so its a chance for them to see that running can be fun as well.”

Broken down into teams, the kids were challenges with a series of puzzles and competitions that not only fostered comraderie but involved some running but in a fun way. One Scrabble-like contest involved the teams digging up letters hidden in the sand so they could spell out a word.

“It's not really a competition,” said Mitchell Smith, a grade eight student who attends Valour K-12 School. “It's a big fun day.”

Formed in 2007, Coureurs de Bois was inspired by Champlain High School teacher and coach, Murray MacDougall. Throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s, MacDougall was dedicated to his successful high school runners, dubbing them “Coureurs de Bois.” Many of them went on to compete in regional and provincial competition. It was his former students, such as Serviss and Rick Schroeder, both who currently coach track and field at Valour, who decided to bring back the Coureurs de Bois. Today, its members include students from Petawawa, Pembroke and Deep River. The new generation of Coureurs de Bois appreciate this venue to get better as runners.

“Every practice you have to go out and run your own speed,” added Mitchell. “You get to improve on your running and it prepares you for races.”

For Wren Rauliuk-Dunn, who will be attending grade seven at Mackenzie Community School, Coureurs de Bois gives her a chance to follow her sister, Eily, who recently competed at the national track and field championships in Ottawa.

“It pushes me and it makes me work hard,” said Wren.

One of the biggest motivators for the high school members of the club is the upcoming Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) cross country championships which will be held at the Petawawa Golf Club in November. OFSAA is one of the top three cross-country races in North America. Many in the club relish the chance to compete in front of a hometown crowd.

“I am excited for that,” said grade 10 Valour student Hali de Ruiter. “There are a few of the hills that are really hard and that's where I beat some of the girls.”

Often the coaches here quote MacDougall, who passed away in 1983, especially referring to one of his famous quotes: “Championships are awarded in October but they are earned in July and August.” The key for these students to qualify for OFSAA and hopefully win a title is to train hard in the summer, according to Serviss.

“The bigger the base the higher the mountain,” he said. “The more training you do the farther it's going to take you.”

The OFSAA championship is anticipated to attract 1,800 runners, as well as another 5,000 coaches, volunteers and spectators. Samantha Csisztu, a grade nine student from Jeanne-Lajoie, is looking forward to the provincial meet.

“I am hoping to compete there,” she said. “You'll know the trails.” 

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