After a break of many years, performances at the Zone 8 Finals in Prince George on October 22 show that Tumbler Ridge cross country running is once again a force in the region. The result is that a record six TR athletes will be going to the Provincial Finals in Victoria on November 4, and each in the team of eleven athletes that traveled to Prince George gave of their best and excelled.

These performances are remarkable in that the team is mostly a young one, and for many it is their first year of running. For some who joined the program they were simply trying to gain some fitness and never dreamed that their efforts would take them this far.

BC is divided into eight zones, and each zone gets to send its top fifteen male and female athletes from Grade 8-12 to the provincial finals. The top two boys and girls teams of five athletes also get to go. Grade 7 and younger compete at zone level but can?t qualify yet for provincials. Zone 8 represents the province from Williams Lake north and includes the Peace Region. Competition at the Zone Finals is therefore extremely tough.

Daniel Helm, Donald Saul and George Saul have done much of their training together this year, and came through with peak performances in the 6.3 km event that gave them superb 5th, 6th and 8th places, guaranteeing them provincial berths. For the first time in the history of Tumbler Ridge, a boys? team could be entered, with Braden Watt in the crucial anchoring role and the rapidly improving Michael Webb showing much promise. For these two Grade 8 and 9 athletes this was their first year of running, and they faced considerable pressure. Both came through strongly, Braden sprinting in in 45th position and Michael passing eight runners in his final kilometers to register 28th. In a team event it is usually the 4th and 5th placed athletes that determine mostly who will qualify, and Braden and Michael?s great efforts were enough to secure the second team place for TRSS! All five will now represent the school in Victoria.

The main purpose for the girls? team was to experience this level of event and competition, as these young runners had considered that a place in the top fifteen was beyond their reach in the 4.7 km run. Crystal Fry?s powerful run that squeezed her into 15th place surprised her, but didn?t surprise her coaches, who have been appreciating her steadily improving form over the past months. She joins the boys? team on the bus to Victoria. Close behind her was Natalie Sharman in 24th position. For Natalie, in Grade 8, this is an impressive position that she can build on in the next four years of competition. Karli Watt, also in her first year of cross country, steamed in in 38th position. These girls will be joined next year by the current crop of Grade 7 runners, with the potential for an outstanding girls running team.

Carina Helm elected not to run in her age group event but rather to compete unofficially in the high school competition, and her solid run was enough to secure an unofficial 8th place. Laura Sharman and Kelsey Legault ran the elementary 3.5 km run and did Tumbler Ridge proud with 1st and 2nd places.

Fantastic team spirit characterized the cross country running season, and for their coaches from the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society it was a great privilege to work with athletes of such enthusiasm and dedication. Cross country running is often a tough sport that teaches athletes many life skills and prepares them to achieve in life. Going to Provincials is a whole new level of running to get used to, and these promising athletes are guaranteed to do their best in Victoria for themselves, their families, their school and their community.