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Three titles for Gators runners
Usually it is upperclassmen who play the role of helper in aiding the younger students at school.
But the roles were reversed at the Fraser Valley cross-country championships for the Walnut Grove Gators.
Missing three members of the senior girls team, a trio of junior runners helped the Gators capture the senior girls banner. The race was held Oct. 23 at Abbotsford's Clearbrook Park under sunny and warm conditions.
"It was almost too hot, if you can say that about mid-October," said Walnut Grove coach Gary Lutes who coaches along with Don Sparks.
"The kids were happy, they were pumped to help the Grade 12s win one in their last year."
The performance also helped qualify the senior team for the B.C. provincial cross-country championships, which will be held on Nov. 2 at Aldergrove Regional Park.
"We really wanted to qualify a senior team to that event," Lutes said.
"In order for us to make it possible to get a team in, we ran all of our Grade 9 and 10 girls up and one Grade 8 girl.
"We knew we could run our girls up, qualify our senior team and then pull those girls out and run them at the junior level (at provincials)."
The junior provincials is open, meaning anyone at that level can enter.
At the Fraser Valley championships, Walnut Grove edged W.J. Mouat by one point, to take the title.
The scoring is done by adding up the team's top five finishers — one point for whichever place they finish — with the lowest total winning.
The Gators scored 60 points while Mouat had 61.
Mouat had the top two runners in the event, but Walnut Grove had more depth.
Grade 9 student Chelsea Borrowdale was sixth while a pair of Grade 10 runners also cracked the top 10 with Isabella Boccia finishing ninth and Emma Deardon 10th, respectively.
Deardon was 11th overall as only runners that are part of the team event are included when it comes to scoring the points.
Grade 11 student Robyn Buckingham was 14th (21st overall) and Grade 12 student Dallas Tilley was 21st (33rd).
And that doesn't even take into consideration Walnut Grove runners Kate MacEwen and Brianne DeJong, who while they didn't earn points — only the top five from each team do — they did finish ahead of the fifth-place Mouat runner.
The Gators finished with a total time of 1:25:37.07 and an average of 17:07.42 over the 4.5 km course. By comparison, Mouat had both lower total and average times.
Walnut Grove won two other team titles as well at the Fraser Valley championships, taking top spot in both the junior and senior boys divisions.
The senior boys team scored 80 points, five better than Kwantlen Park.
Lutes felt his team had a chance at the title, but they did not know what sort of challenge the Surrey schools would present.
"There are some good Surrey schools (and) you just never know deep people are.
"It was pretty sweet for them to be crowned champs."
The Gators placed five among the top 22 in the 6.5 km race, once again showing their depth as Kwantlen Park had lower total and average times.
James Lam was ninth (20th), Jim Harradine was 14th (25th), Ben Demian was 15th (26th), Malav Subramaniam was 20th (37th) and Richard Torres was 22nd (40th).
All five are Grade 11 and 12 students.
The junior boys team scored a 51 while Sardis was second at 73.
The Gators averaged 18:11.10 per runner, for a total time of 1:30:55.48, both of which were tops, over the 5.5 km course.
"We knew that we had a good shot," Lutes said.
"We are at least four deep in that one and we knew we had a pretty good opportunity."
The race was won by Langley Secondary's Dean Ellenwood, but the Saints were not entered in the team competition.
Walnut Grove's Joel Harrison was third overall, but second among those in the team portion.
Paul Buckingham came sixth (eighth), Daniel Stead was ninth (12th), Ford McMahon was 14th (22nd and Liam Riley was 20th (33rd).