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It takes a lot to topple a Totem.
And in fact, at this year’s Canadian Cross-Country Championships in Vancouver it just couldn’t be done, as the girls’ team raced to a first-place finish against much older and more experienced competitors.
Five team members cracked the top 10 in the 36-runner field, giving Semiahmoo the point total it needed to bring home what coach Scott Yewchuk believes is the district’s first ever national cross-country banner. It was a huge feat, given four of the six team members - Kara Lauer, Dominika Paige, Emily Liang and Elise Burgert - are in Grade 9 and were competing against girls as many as three years older. The other team members are in grades 10 (Chelsea Ribeiro) and 12 (Alison Williams).“It was an amazing day ending a truly amazing season,” said Yewchuk.
The road to the championship was plagued with injuries. After winning the Fraser Valley title, the Totem girls headed to the provincial championships in Prince George as the second best team in the Fraser Valley. But injuries and other complications prevented Semi from sending the full complement of seven runners and only six made the trip.
“As a coach, I had a quiet optimism,” said Yewchuk. “I knew the girls were strong and had prepared, but cold, altitude, age and a dry climate were factors that could severely affect the outcome of a big race. The challenge was bigger than anything the girls had previously seen.”
At the start of the 4.2 km-race, the team’s most consistent and fastest runner – Julia Greer – fell. By mid-race, however, Greer had shot to 10th place, and was second to fellow Totem Ribeiro, who was in fourth spot. The excitement began to grow as Lauer, Williams and Paige were in close pursuit and within the top 40 runners. (In cross-country, the first five runners to cross the finish line for a team count for points. Their combined place finishes are added together and the team with the lowest score wins.) All five girls finished in the top 40 with a combined score of 72 points, which was more than enough to beat returning favourite West Point Grey and earn them the provincial title, which they followed up with the Canadian title Nov. 24 in Vancouver.