Healthy and back on track, Oak Bay runner second at cross-country provincials

Oak Bay High’s Liam Kennell proved on Saturday that he’s still the Island’s top seeded cross-country runner by finishing second B.C.'s

Liam Kennel

Liam Kennel

Oak Bay High’s Liam Kennell proved on Saturday that he’s still the Island’s top seeded cross-country runner by finishing second at the provincial high school cross-country championship in Aldergrove.

Kennell had fallen to fourth at the recent 6.7-kilometre Island cross-country championships at Beaver Lake. But this week he revealed he was fighting a chest cold at Beaver Lake which affected his race. After that race  he took two full days to recover and was mostly back to health at the provincials on Saturday.

He had a strategy too. Unfortunately, he didn’t stick to it.

“I knew (the winner Nathan Wadhwani) and I were going to breakaway (from the start). He took off fast like he usually did, and I didn’t panic, I just sat (on his shoulder) for the first two laps, and we broke away from the pack,” Kennell said.

It turned into a 6.7 km back-and-forth battle that came down to the final hundred metres and a difference of five seconds.

“(Wadhwani) was tiring in the third lap and I took my first lead, a three-second gap up a hill,” Kennell said.

Wadhwani responded, however, and took a gap of his own. Kennell then retook the lead with about 800 metres left. But it was one too many lead exchanges, Kennell later said, as Wadwhani shot ahead on a downhill with about 300 metres to go. This time Kennell couldn’t close the gap, which is ironic, as Kennell’s the faster runner in the sprint.

“I was trying to catch him with 100 metres left but I couldn’t. Cross country is like that,” Kennell said. “(Wadhwani) is a better long distance runner so maybe I made a mistake to go ahead – I should have stayed with him and waited to the end to break away.”

Injuries to Kennell’s team kept them from defending the boy’s team title. Parkland’s Chloe Hegland was the top senior girl from the Lower Island in fourth with Oak Bay’s Maddie Brunt next at 18th.

Bridget Mateyko was the only St. Andrew’s school athlete to compete at the cross-country provincials. Athletic director Alia Zawacki expects a bright athletic future from this young lady. Mateyko finished 26th overall. Not bad for a Grade 8 student, a 13-year-old, running against 17-year-olds.

Next up for Kennell is the under-19 junior nationals in Vancouver at the end of the month, where Kennell will compete with the UVic Track Club, a group of elite high school students. Kennell hopes to qualify for Team Canada to compete at the North America Central America Caribbean Association cross-country championships in February.