Maple Ridge runners medal at cross-country provincials

B.C. cross-country champion Nathan Wadhwani was the top finisher in an impressive group of local athletes at the provincials on Saturday.

Maple Ridge resident Nathan Wadhwani (670) gets out to a lead in the provincial cross-country championships on Saturday at Aldergrove Park; (below) Maple Ridge secondary’s Jamie Hennessy (335) finished third in her event.

B.C. cross-country champion Nathan Wadhwani was the top finisher in an impressive group of local athletes at the provincials on Saturday.

Wadhwani knew he had a good shot at winning the B.C. high school cross-country championship, and his main competitor was going to be a former Team Canada teammate.

Wadhwani travelled to the Ukraine over the summer as part of Team Canada’s entry in the IAAF World Youth Championships, for the top athletes under 20. He ran the 3,000m, while fellow distance runner Liam Kennell of Oak Bay secondary competed in the 1,500m event, and the two longtime track rivals became friends.

Wadhwani saw Kennell at the B.C. cross-country championships at Aldergrove Park on Saturday, and knew he was going to be his fiercest rival.

They took off in a downpour, on a muddy track. Wadhwani separated from the pack, and Kennell was right beside him.

“I set a fast pace, and he came with me,” said Wadhwani. “We went at it the entire time.”

It was a tough run on a heavy, 6.3-km course, with a grueling and slippery hill.

Wadhwani’s legs were burning as they started the last click. He knew Kennell couldn’t be feeling much better, and with about 800m left, he made his move, getting a separation of about 10m ahead of his rival.

With 400m to go, Kennell brought his best final kick, and actually managed to pass the ailing Wadhwani.

So it stayed, until with about 200m left, Wadhwani picked it up for one last gutsy burst, and passed Kennell. The Island athlete apparently had used up everything in the tank, and couldn’t catch Wadhwani, who steamed across the finish line in first place.

“It’s definitely a checkmark beside one of the big goals that I’ve always had,” said Wadhwani.

Last year he placed fifth in the event.

This year Wadhwani finished in a time of 20:32.51, and Kennell was second with a time of 20:37.76.

Reid Muller of Pitt Meadows secondary was fourth in the field of 242 senior boys’ runners, finishing in a time of 20:58.67.

In the junior women’s race, Maple Ridge secondary’s Jamie Hennessy was third, finishing the 4.3km event in a time of 16:54.58.

There was a field of 232 junior girls competing

Ryan Butler didn’t win a medal, but the Thomas Haney runner finished an impressive sixth in a field of 247 junior athletes, after covering 4.3km in a time of 15:19.56.

Wadhwani said he’s savouring the moment, and then will get back to training for the junior national cross-country championships, coming up at Jericho Beach in Vancouver on Nov. 30.

The Grade 12 Terry Fox student will be up against students who are running with university teams for the first year, so he will be in tough. Given the talented field, a Top 10 finish would be a realistic goal, and he is hoping to crack the top six. That would get him on Team Canada for junior national competition, and another international trip wearing the Maple Leaf.

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