A pair of junior Muskie runners made inroads at the first cross-country meet of the season last Wednesday in Kenora.
Racing in the late-September sunshine, ninth-graders Jack Hamilton and Dante Tookenay finished third and fourth, respectively.
Hamilton wrapped up the 5.2-km race in 23:08, with Tookenay right behind at 23:16.
Both were in their eventual finishing positions at the halfway point.
Tookenay was in a tougher position, but he held off a runner in pursuit by staying strong during uphill sections of the trail, according to Muskie coach Natasha Shack.
Shack also said Dexter Fichuk and Christina Vandermeer posted strong performances in the team’s first action on the cross-country trail.
Hamilton felt he had improved on his previous races. But after seeing real competition for the first time this year, he realized what kind of work is left to do.
“It was pretty fun,” Hamilton enthused. “It wasn’t really what I expected it to be.
“It was a lot harder than I thought. Most of it was uphill.
“I was a little more prepared than last year, but I was still pretty tired,” he recalled.
“You’ve just got to be strong mentally,” Hamilton stressed. “That’s what the sport’s about, pretty much, not giving up when you’re really tired.
“You just don’t give up.
“I just didn’t expect to be that tired at the end of the run,” he admitted.
With Tookenay within striking distance, Hamilton said he was able to use a bit of fire from their friendly rivalry to help give him a boost in the race’s latter stages.
“I could feed off of him a little bit, but me and Dante have been competing the whole time,” he remarked.
“We’re just as fast as each other, so it’s pretty fun.”
A big part of the team’s training has been to figure out how to deal with opposing runners over the course of a race—something that’s difficult, but not impossible, to simulate in practice.
“My running teachers this year were teaching me how to stay in front of the runner, and how to pass people,” Hamilton said.
“How to change my speed in different spots.”
Fort High will be back in action this Friday (Oct. 8) in Dryden for their final race of the year.
Hamilton anticipates he may be in a little bit tougher in the race, given that the runner-up may have some home-trail advantage.
“The kid that beat me [in Kenora], that came in second [Kirk Markowski], he’s from Dryden, so I think that he might be a little better on his home turf.
“It’s going to be tough.”
The team opted to forgo the regional meet in Thunder Bay on Oct. 20 in order to support the inaugural race in Dryden.