Nick Greenizan photoRunners from throughout the Fraser Valley take off from the start line during a race in Crescent Park in October. Surrey competitors are expected to be among the top medal contenders when provincial championships are held this weekend in Vancouver.

Surrey runners prep for provincial cross-country showdown

Local runners expected to fare well at Jericho Park, says one coach

The final leg of the B.C. high-school cross-country season just a few days away – provincial championships are set for this weekend – and if all goes well at the finale, Surrey runners could leave quite well-decorated with medals.

At least, that’s the prediction of Scott Kent who, as coach of the Surrey-wide Coastal Track Club at the club level as well as head coach of Earl Marriott Secondary’s cross-country team, has as good a grip as anyone on the city’s running talent.

And Kent predicts big things – starting with one of his own runners, Jaxon Mackie, whom Kent said should be the runaway favourite when the starter’s gun goes off at Vancouver’s Jericho Park Saturday morning.

“On the guys’ side, I don’t expect him have any major pressure on him, I really don’t,” Kent said. “Jaxon right now is just at another level. There’s just fairly good separation between him and the rest of the group.”

The senior boys race on Saturday will consist of three laps of the 2.3-km track. Junior boys will do two laps of a 2.5-km circuit, and both junior and senior girls will run two laps of the 2.3-km course.

To qualify for B.C. championships, senior teams – which will send seven runners apiece to Jericho Park – had to finish in the top eight in Fraser Valley team standings, while individual runners could also qualify on their own by placing in the top 45 overall. At the junior level, the top seven teams at Valleys qualified for provincials, and will send six runners each. Individually, the top 42 junior runners also made the cut, while the top three Grade 8 runners also get a bump into the junior race this weekend.

Kent’s praise for Mackie isn’t just that of an over-exuberant coach – the young runner’s results back up his coach’s crystal-ball predictions. At Fraser Valley Championships at Crescent Park in mid-October, the EMS runner finished first among senior boys by a 31-second margin.

“He should win by 200 metres again, just like Fraser Valleys,” Kent said.

One competitor, Holy Cross runner Riley Miller, would normally be able to give Mackie a run for the title, but he has come down with mono, Kent added. Miller – who runs for Kent at Coastal – edged Mackie at the prestigious Nike Portland XC on Sept. 30, Kent pointed out.

“He just got that (mono) news recently, but I knew something was up because in (Coastal) training, he wasn’t right up there with Jaxon like he had been,” the coach explained. “It’s why he was 12th at Fraser Valleys.”

Mackie’s EMS teammate, Sajjan Sarai, could also run to a podium spot at Jericho Park, Kent said, assuming that the weather and trail conditions stay dry.

“Sajjan… his downfall is that he just can’t stay on his feet. It sounds funny, but he falls a lot when he races. At Fraser Valley’s he was in second but he tripped on a tree root and went down hard. And Portland was the same thing – he tripped and then had to make up like 50 spots.

“But this weekend, the weather should be good, so he should be OK. He’s another guy who could put some pressure on Jaxon. Then there’s guys like Aiden Miller (from Holy Cross) and Tyson Baker (from Tamanawis)… I think they’ll be six or seven guys from Surrey in the top 25, which is pretty impressive. That’s pretty rare, and pretty exciting for Surrey.”

When it comes to the senior girls race, Kent expected strong competition from Okanagan and North Vancouver-area teams, though he also had high praise for Princess Margaret Secondary’s Baneet Bains, who was second overall in the Valley senior girls race.

“I’m expecting the Fraser Valley to yield (some podium finishes)… and she could medal – she’s very talented,” Kent said.

Sullivan Heights Secondary will also enter provincials at reigning Fraser Valley senior girls champions, after a banner-winning performance at Crescent Park last month.

Surrey – and the Semiahmoo Peninsula, specifically – may be well represented at the junior level, too, with Southridge’s Maya Kobylanski among the top contenders in the junior girls race.

“She’s a very strong, very smart runner. I’d expect that she’d be right up there,” Kent said, adding Holy Cross runner Madsion Stoochnoff to the list of potential contenders for a top-five spot.

South Surrey runners will likely be near the front of the pack in the junior boys race, too, considering how the Fraser Valley championship went. At Valleys, Earl Marriott won the overall team title – led by second-place finisher Jeremiah Mackie – while Holy Cross’s Owen Pinto was first overall and Semiahmoo’s Michael Miller fifth.

For more information on cross-country provincials, visit www.bcxc.ca

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