Wednesday marked the return of the Simcoe County Cross Country Running Championship for the region's elementary school students.
Approximately 2,000 students in Grades 4 to Grade 8 braved the wet and muddy terrain at Mount St. Louis Moonstone for one of the first major school sports competitions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe Forte, the convener of the event and a teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Collingwood, says bringing the event back to life is "huge" for its participants.
“We’ve gone two-and-a-half to three years with nothing,” he said. “These kids have worked so hard to get to this point and we’ve put everything that we have into this.”
The cross-country running championship is the biggest sporting event of the year for the Simcoe County District School Board.
“It brings the community and schools all back together,” Forte said. “I can’t stress how important it is.”
Some schools have their athletes train five days a week for the championship. For others, they don’t take it too seriously and mainly focus on the fun aspect.
“They just want to go out, have a good time, and get back to enjoying events like this,” Forte said.
The atmosphere of the day provides a lot of excitement, Forte says. Every school has a tent set up where athletes can socialize, rehydrate, and support each other.
“This is a fabulous venue for this event,” he said. “Mount St. Louis Moonstone caters to us, they are wonderful, and they let us interrupt their work while they prepare for the snow to fly.”
Melody Northrop, the chair of the county's athletic council and the principal of Steele Street Public School, says the return of sports is vital to students.
“The kids are so happy,” she said. “They are so excited, and this has been a great day.”
Northrop says the region-wide cross-country running event is often one of the highlights of a student’s school career.
“They just love being on a team,” she said. “When you are on a sports team you feel like you belong at the school, and this brings that back for kids.”
Gavin Evenhuis, a Shanty Bay Public School student, was the winner of the Grade 4 boys' race.
“It was a good race today,” he said. “I’m happy to win it.”
Evenhuis says he was overjoyed when he saw the finish line and nobody surrounding him to challenge for the first-place finish.
“I was really excited,” he said.
Emily Shuell, a Mountain View Elementary School (Collingwood) student, was the winner of the Grade 5 girls' race.
“It was a very hard race,” she said. “The hills definitely made it challenging.”
Shuell says she was well prepared on race day, which is what allowed her to race to victory.
“I’ve been training for this since the middle of September,” she said. “I still didn’t expect to win though, I’m pretty surprised and happy.”
Shuell says winning the race in front of her family, classmates, and friends made the victory extra sweet.
For full results, click here.