Balasz punches ticket to provincials
Emma Balasz knows what she wants the weather in Prince George to be like the first weekend of November.
“Hopefully we’ll have a bit of snow,” she says with a smile. Her thinking is simple: The provincial high school cross-country races are being held in Prince George that weekend, and the runners from down south probably won’t be used to snow.
Balasz, a Grade 12 student at Kelly Road Secondary, punched her ticket to the provincials by winning the women’s race Saturday at the zones meet, held at D.P. Todd Secondary.
“It’s the same course we’ll be running for the provincials. I did the course on another race earlier this year, but I couldn’t remember what my time was when I started the race today.”
For the record, her time for the 4.3k course was 18 minutes and 10 seconds, putting her 28 seconds ahead of Danika Robson of Williams Lake with Cierra Verduzzo of Nechako Valley (Vanderhoof) in third.
“It was a good, fast race,” Balasz said. “It was close at the start, so I picked up the pace to give myself some room to play with as the race went on.”
The strategy obviously worked, as Balasz had a comfortable lead after the first of two 2k loops the women ran.
The Nechako Valley women’s team took the team title as their top five runners had combined placements totals of 35, ahead of College Heights 46, while Duchess Park was third at 69.
On the men’s side of the race, it was no surprise at the top as Alexander Nemethy of Nechako Valley took the lead early and was never threatened. He ran the 6.3k men’s course in 23:23, more than a minute of ahead of Austin Bartell of Prince George Secondary. Isaac Goodrich of College Heights was third, just 13 seconds behind Bartell.
Duchess Park took the men’s team title, with Liam Stewart, Zachery Matyas and Luke Holmes finishing fourth through sixth respectively to keep the Condors’ total to 31, ahead of Nechako Valley and College Heights.
The top 20 individual finishers in each race as well as the top three teams qualified for the provincials.
Brian Nemethy from Nechako Valley is the race director for the provincials, which will be held in Prince George on Nov. 3.
“This is the first time they’ve been north of Vernon or Kelowna. They were in Kelowna last year, and we put in a bid to host them this year and got it.”
Nemethy had been thinking about applying for the provincials for a few years, and already had an idea for where the course would be.
“I liked the area by D.P. Todd, where you could run up into Moore’s Meadow as well. We were thinking at one time of having one big loop, but then we decided to make it two loops for the women and three for the men so the spectators could see the kids come by.”
The zone championship on the weekend was looked at as a test of the whole process before the provincials.
“We’ve got a great group of volunteers who are going to be laying the course out and marking it. The city agreed to block off First Avenue for a few hours for the race, with the only vehicles allowed through being buses.
“We tried to plan the timing for the race so we wouldn’t even have to worry about a bus going by and forcing the runners to stop.”
Holding the provincials on the same course as the zones is standard procedure, he says, for that reason, but he admits it does give the local runners a bit of an advantage.
“They know the course better, they know where they can speed up, they know where the hills are.”
There are no requirements for the course besides length, but Nemethy says they always try to put in a few small hills and some good straightaways.
“This course is unique in that we will be able to hold the awards ceremony right at the school after the race. For the past 13 years, since I’ve been involved as a coach, we’ve always had to go back to the school by bus for the ceremony.”
Nemethy is hoping to see between 500 and 600 runners here for the provincials.
“There’s been some resistance from some schools in the south, but we have to travel down there every year.”
He says it’s also a chance for some of those southern students to get a look at a new part of the province.
“There are a lot of them who might never have come farther north than Cache Creek. When they’ve gotten there before, they’ve always turned toward Kamloops.”
And, he says, while there be some snow on the ground by Nov. 3, that wouldn’t be a first.
“One year when I was running, back in 1986, it was in Vernon and there was snow on the ground.”
The provincial high school women’s cross-country championships starts at 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 3, while the men’s race starts an hour later. First Avenue between Freimuller Avenue and Claxton Crescent will be closed between 10:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.