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Young runners team up to race

Okotoks Track and Cross-Country Club helping youth run in delayed season

Friends from an Okotoks running club teamed up last week to have what might be the only cross-country event of the season.

The Okotoks Track and Cross-Country Club held its first of five club races on Sept. 10 at the Mountainview storm-pond path system.

"For us, we were starting to think of our training — we were just training, training, training, without any goals because there weren't any races," said OTCC co-coach Mark Toombs. "Five races sounded about right because it takes us to the end of October."

The club consists of approximately 35 runners of junior and senior high school age. Typically in the fall, the young runners would be training for cross-country zone and, hopefully, provincial championships for their respective schools. However, due to COVID-19, the Alberta Schools' Athletics Association has not set a date for any provincial championships.

So, the club is filling the competitive void for the young runners and is following COVID-19 protocols for the races.

There were approximately 25 runners participating in the 3.9km race on Sept. 10. The runners went off the starting line four at a time at 20 second intervals. They were encouraged to keep as much separation as possible during the run. As well, the athletes didn't mingle after the race.

And most importantly, it was in the great outdoors, at what is affectionately called the Goose Poop Loop by members of the Big Rock Runners.

Mya Nevins-Layte, a Grade 9 student at St. John Paul II Collegiate, has been a member of the club for two years.

"I thought the teamwork was great,” she said of the race. "All the support that you get. When you are running, if you pass someone or they pass you, you're still giving out high fives and telling people you are doing great."

Nevins-Layte won the divisional junior high school cross-country meet at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School in 2019, but the school schedule for 2020 is up in the air due to COVID-19.

"I will try to run at school, if they have any races," she said.

Leon Spatz, a Grade 10 student at Holy Trinity Academy, has been with OTCC for three weeks.

"I have a passion for running it clears my head when I run," he said. "I like (the club) a lot. I just like that everyone supports each other. No one is being too competitive and no one is being mean to each other."

Hugh McGregor, a Grade 10 student at the Comp, said the club has helped cut his time on the track and the course.

“All my times have gotten faster for every distance, every kind of terrain — snow, muddy trails,” McGregor said. “All around I am just a better runner. My endurance is better.”

He will  likely run for the Foothills Falcons if he gets the chance, but he is more of a track guy now, a 1,500m and 3,000 specialist.

“I’ve started to enjoy running on the track a little bit more — it is easier to pace myself out,” McGregor said. “I find on the track, I don’t have to worry about turning a corner and seeing a long hill…”

The Sept. 10 run included the athletes taking three trips up the hill at Mountainview path system. 

The next race for the OTCC is Sept. 22, at Drake Park. It won’t be a repeat winner.

Teams are re-selected for each race.

 OTCC is run by the Big Rock Runners Club, which has a goal to promote running in the Foothills area. There is plenty of experience on the coaching team.

Toombs and Richard Ellum have both completed the Boston Marathon. Co-coach Jayni Caldwell, along with Ellum, is a former cross-country coach for the Foothills Falcons.

"They just try to help you be the best that you can with running," Spatz said. "They try to find a way to make a better runner."

As for the high school cross-country teams, while many of the schools are practicing, no dates for any meets have been set.

Toombs said the OTCC coaches have a good relationship with Okotoks area schools and they work together.

The cost to join the club is $90 for the September to June cross-country and track season. The club gave $1,000 in scholarships to Okotoks area runners last June.

For more information click OTCC.

Sheep River Road Race

The Big Rock Runners have cancelled its Sheep River Road Race for the first time in 42 years due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The race was scheduled for Sept. 18.  Those who have pre-registered  will be refunded,

The Big Rock Runners continue to have their social runs every Saturday at 9 a.m. starting outside the Okotoks Recreation Centre. 






Bruce Campbell

About the Author: Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell is the editor for and the Western Wheel newspaper. He is a graduate of Mount Royal College journalism program, 1991. For story tips contact
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