The J. L. Crowe cross-country running team set the pace at the West Kootenay Championship at the Busk Trails near Nelson last week.
Crowe’s Daniel Merlo and Gina Oostlander took first place in the junior division, while Michael Moon placed second among Grade-8 and-9 runners.
The team competed against high schools from across the West Kootenay region including junior boys and girls in Grades 8 and 9 and senior girls and boys in Grades 10 to 12.
Oostlander completely dominated her age group, leaving the rest of the junior girls field in her dust as she won by more than a minute Wednesday.
The Grade-8 student took first place in all her races this season, and along with Moon, have been super competitive for first year runners.
The J. L. Crowe cross-country team was formed just two years ago by teachers Colin Adamson and Loretta Jones both avid runners.
The two were very impressed with the whole team but the performances in the junior division definitely bode well for the future of the program, said Adamson.
Oostlander has been running since Grade 6 and has performed brilliantly for the cross-country team this season winning all her races.
Merlo meanwhile eclipsed Moon by half a second in the three-kilometer race over difficult terrain. Moon took first place in the previous race at Champion Lakes while Merlo placed third before turning the tables on Moon in Nelson.
“It was a lot better, (the Nelson race),” said Merlo. “You had to work a lot harder because the Champion (Lakes) course had lots of roots so you had to concentrate on not tripping on those, rather than running hard.”
The two runners shot out of the blocks creating a substantial lead then coasted through the difficult swamp portion of the race before Merlo beat Moon in a sprint to the finish.
Merlo, a Grade 9 student, will move up to senior division next year while Moon remains a junior and should dominate.
Similarly, senior runners like Grade-10 student Mitch McLean finished well, placing seventh against older racers and expects much better results next year.