Peninsula runners fared well on the trails of Aldergrove Lake Wednesday, at Fraser Valley Cross-Country Championships, and none moreso than Earl Marriott’s Deon Clifford, who won the senior boys race.
Clifford captured top spot out of 194 runners, clocking a time of 21 minutes, 35.16 seconds in the 6.4-km race – seven seconds quicker than second-place runner Tim Delcourt of Kwantlen Park Secondary. Lawrence Viola of Coquitlam’s Heritage Woods was third, crossing the line in 21:51.72.
Clifford’s feat was even more impressive considering he was playing hurt, and nearly skipped the race altogether after suffering a rugby injury the week before.
The week prior to the Fraser Valley race, Clifford, playing for Bayside’s U18 team against a touring English side, took an inadvertent knee to the jaw when he went to make a tackle. He “got his bell rung” according to his dad, Jim, and was thought to have suffered a concussion. Mild headaches the next few days curtailed his training for the cross-country meet, but by Wednesday’s race, he deemed himself in good enough shape to compete. And while his head injury did not bother him during the race, his lack of training nearly caught up with him at the end.
“He had to push very hard to the end… he collapsed (in exhaustion) after the race, and did his handshakes lying on his back,” his father explained.
Clifford was the only Peninsula runner to finish in the top 15, although Seaquam Seahawks’ runner Michael Milic, from Delta, was fifth.
White Rock Christian’s Jake Newman and Tyus Allen finished 16th and 20th, respectively, and Semiahmoo’s Jalen Sekhon was 19th.
And though they had no runner inside the top 15, WRCA – who had 16 runners in the senior boys race – proved there is strength in numbers by placing third overall in team standings. Earl Marriott was fourth overall.
In the 4.5-km senior girls race, Semiahmoo’s Alison Williams narrowly missed finishing on the podium, placing fourth. W.J. Mouat’s Alex Seimens and Walnut Grove’s Ashley Windsor – two of the favourites to win heading into the race – took first and second, respectively.
Earl Marriott’s Ally Ginther placed sixth in the five-km run and her EMS teammate, Melanie Oster, rounded out the top 10. Earl Marriott finished fourth overall in team standings, and Semiahmoo placed sixth.
In the junior girls run, also a 4.5-km circuit, Semi Totems’ Chelsea Ribeiro grabbed the gold medal with a time of 17:42.50 – 29 seconds ahead of MEI Eagles’ Alicia Unruh, who was second. Fleetwood Park’s Aliesha Ferraby rounded out the podium finishers in third place.
Elgin Park’s Kate Mason placed eighth in the race, while her teammate, Esmee Smit-Anseeuw, was 15th; Elgin placed third overall in junior girls team standings.
Peninsula runners also stood out in the junior boys 5.4-km race, led by Aksel Smit-Anseeuw, who was fourth overall, just 15 seconds behind the winner, Jesse MacDuff of G.W. Graham Secondary.
Semiahmoo’s Brandon Figueroa was fourth, Elgin’s Mason Lin eighth and Lord Tweedsmuir’s Liam Mckay was 10th.
In the Grade 8 girls race, Semiahmoo pulled off a rare clean sweep – Totems’ runners finished took the top four sports in the five-km trail run.
Julia Greer led the way, following by Dominika Paige and Lara Lauer, in second and third place respectively, and Emily Liang placed fourth, just three seconds back of Lauer.
No other Peninsula runners placed in the top 10, but Marriott’s Alexis Ewacha was 11th and Sammi Klymchuk 14th.
Semi’s Connor Jackson was third in the Grade 8 boys race, and EMS runner Jackson Silvester-Lee was sixth.
Runners now prepare for provincial championships, which hit the trail this weekend in Kelowna.