Matt Hope’s decision to drop out of track and concentrate on cross-country running couldn’t have worked out better.
The 17-year-old Hunting Hills star capped off his high school career by capturing gold in the senior boys’ division of the provincial cross-country championships at River Bend Golf Course and Recreation Area Saturday afternoon.
Hope finished in 20 minutes, 13 seconds, 21 seconds ahead of Russell Pennock of Henry Wise Wood of Calgary.
Hope went into the championship as the favourite.
“Most of the races I ran this year, I won, but I didn’t let that get in my head. I just wanted to ran fast as this is the one that mattered,” he said.
Hope broke away early in the race and never looked back.
“After I broke away I gradually worked on my lead, but it was still scary as I didn’t want to get caught.”
Hope may have had a slightly advantage over the field as he knew the course.
“It did make it better,” he said. “I always knew where I was and how far the finish line was at any given time, so I knew when to start my kick.”
In the end the victory was extra special.
“It was cool after doing this for three years that the last one was at home. I’m graduating this year so it’s nice to get this one.”
Hope got into running in elementary school when he joined the Red Deer Titans Track Club.
“After a couple of years I got away from it (the Titans) and started running on my own. Then Mr. J (Hunting Hills coach Brian Johnson) got me going again and helped motivate me. I like track, but I’m definitely stronger in cross-country, and I don’t have the finishing speed to run track.”
Hope plans on taking education next year, but where is still up in the air.
“Possibly the U of A, but I’ve trained with Mr. (RDC coach Brian) Stackhouse and he’s a great coach, so there’s a definitely possibility I may go there,” said Hope, who could join former Hunting Hills teammate Kieran McDonald with RDC.
“It would be a good idea to join Kieran and it would be closer to home. I want to go somewhere where I’ll get better.”
Stephen Payne of Calgary’s Ernest Manning was third at 20:56 while Alex Andres of Wetaskiwin was fifth at 21:23, Tyler Smith of Wetaskiwin sixth at 21:31, Matt Cernohorsky of Notre Dame seventh at 21:32 and Matt Van Mulligan of Hunting Hills eighth at 21:42.
Meanwhile, Jordanna Cota of Hunting Hills captured third in the senior girls’ division.
“I’m really proud of myself,” said the Grade 12 athlete. “This is my third year and I was 11th, fourth and now third. I’m improving all the way.”
Cota had a plan going into the four-kilometre run, and ran her race.
“I planned on staying with the lead pack and when they started to pull away I knew I had a lot of work to do, but I kept my pace and stayed with it.”
Cota finished at 15:37 with Claire Sumner and Madison Laurin of Calgary’s Western Canada taking the top two positions at 14:53 and 15:09 respectively.
“The Western Canada girls were unreal,” said Cota. “I haven’t raced them and they ran a great race.”
Cota, like Hope, knew the River Bend track, which was to her benefit.
“It definitely helped,” she said. “I’ve trained here once a week and knew where all the turns were.”
Cota would also be a great addition to the RDC cross-country team, and does plan on getting into nursing, but isn’t sure yet where she’ll end up.
If she stays in Red Deer, former RDC great Jodi Sanguin is training with and helping coach the RDC team.
“I always looked up to her and it would be good to train with her,” said Cota.
Alex Johnson of Hunting Hills placed eighth in the senior girls at 16:22.
Alex James of Calgary’s Crescent Heights won the intermediate boys’ title in a photo finish with Eric Chan of Edmonton’s Jasper Place. Both finished at 16:50. Issac Penner of Edmonton Strathcona was third at 17:06 and Mitch Dore of Notre Dame fourth at 17:10.
Derrick Evans of Hunting Hills was ninth at 17:46.
The intermediate girls’ title went to Gillian Ceyhan of Strathcona Tweedsmuir at 15:26 while Adeline Maunder of Paul Kane was second at 15:56 and Elani Bykowski of Chinook of Lethbridge third at 16:04. Kirsten Ramsay of Lacombe was fifth at 16:18.
Stefan Daniel of the National Sports School won the junior boys’ title in 13:36 with Jake Armstrong of Western Canada at 13:41 and Cooper Bently of Henry Wise Wood at 14:04.
Jelmer Van Den Hadelkamp of Sundre was fifth at 14:12, David Erasmus of St. Thomas Aquinas seventh at 14:16 and Noah Mulzet of Lindsay Thurber eighth at 14:17.
Emily Wagner of Calgary’s William Aberhart won the 3km junior girls race in 11:28 with Madison Szafranski of Edmonton’s Harry Ainlay at 11:35 and Justine Santema of Sir. Winston Churchill of Calgary at 12:07.
Emily Lucas and Amy Sevetson of Innisfail placed fifth and ninth respectively at 12:19 and 12:35.
In team competition, Hunting Hills was second in the 4A division, Wetaskiwin first in 3A, Sundre second in 2A and New Norway second in 1A.