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Petawawa hosts OFSAA cross-country championships

By Celina Ip

GARRISON PETAWAWA – Petawawa played host to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations OFSAA) cross-country running championships for the first time in the town’s history.


While the community has hosted three Eastern Ontario championships as well as the annual county cross-country meet, this was the first time that Petawawa won the bid to host the elite provincial championship.

“I would say that we're running county because when you look at our history where you've got a lot of people like Melissa Bishop who have gone on to Olympics or have been on national teams. For 100,000 people we're punching over our weight for running for sure,” said convener Rick Schroeder. “This is the first time for Petawawa to host this but the third time for Renfrew County and this is the biggest one because they’ve expanded the field and the paras are here which is really cool.”

Taking place on Nov. 4 at the Petawawa Golf Club, the tournament welcomed 2,000 runners and more than 3,000 of their friends and family members who came to cheer them on.

Recognized as one of the three largest cross-country races in North America, OFSAA is rivalled only by the New York and California state championships in terms of size and competitiveness.

According convener Gary Serviss, over 300 volunteers were involved with the organization and planning to ensure that the event ran smoothly on Saturday.

“We're really pleased with the venue and very appreciative of the golf course for allowing us to be in this area and also grateful towards Garrison Petawawa for all of their support,” said Serviss. “And of course our volunteers did everything from putting up fences to collecting garbage and marshalling the course – it took a lot of people to get this up and running.”

From morning until late afternoon, long-time OFSAA cross-country announcer Ron Hungerford provided commentary of the races and results to keep the spectators updated of the standings. This year’s championship served as the final stop to conclude Hungerford’s impressive 39-year history as an announcer for the annual OFSAA cross-country meet.

“I started with the OFSAA track meet in 1978 when it was held in Kingston. Ever since then, I’ve been all to OFSAA championships all over the province, including Thunder Bay, Sarnia and Toronto area,” said Hungerford.

With the runners coming from 20 districts across the province, they competed in seven divisions that included midget boys and girls (Grade 9), junior boys and girls (Grade 10), senior boys and girls (Grade 11-12) and a para category.

As the young athletes braved the wind and chilly temperatures – which later became snow flurries – their coaches, friends and family encouraged them from the sidelines.

Hungerford expressed that the Petawawa Golf Course has the perfect landscape for a cross-country event.

“As soon as you walk over the hill and look out over the river it's just a majestic view and I absolutely love it here. It’s a very good and challenging track course that has a good combination of flat, fast stretches and then trails through the woods. It's hilly and challenging but fair,” said Hungerford.

Several Renfrew County runners achieved strong finishes throughout the various races including Jeanne-Lajoie’s Rudy Saal who was awarded with silver in the midget boys race.

“I am very proud and didn’t expect to do so well as second place is very very big for all of Ontario,” said Saal. “

After coming home with gold in the individual three-kilometre women’s para category last year, Almaguin Highlands’ Clarista Ardiel returned to the provincial championships and once again earned gold in the same race.

“It feels really good to have won and I almost cried because I was really happy for myself,” expressed the 17-year-old OFSAA gold medallist.

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