J. L. Crowe athlete, Jaxon Kuchar, will race against the best in the country in Ottawa on Saturday, Nov. 27.
The Trail x-country runner placed fifth in the senior boys 5-km event at the BC High School Cross Country Championship at Jericho Beach Park in Vancouver on Nov. 6, and will join Team BC at the 2021 Canadian Cross Country Championship this week.
“I’m really excited,” said Kuchar. “I get to go to Ottawa, so it should be a really interesting location. Probably a bit similar to Vancouver but it will probably be snowy this time, so change the dynamic quite a bit.”
The Jericho Beach course proved challenging, with heavy rain making for slick and muddy conditions going into the race. A mass start saw 231 runners jockey for position until the starting pistol sounded.
“It is challenging, especially at the start,” said Kuchar. “You have elbows going everywhere and so many runners heading out.
“The track just shrinks so much in that first 500-metres, you really have to get a fast start and break away from the big pack or you get slowed down quite a bit.”
The Grade-12 student suffered a spill during the race but it was on a tight corner and he was able to regain his footing without losing much time. He persevered and finished the 5-k run in 16:45. Connor Nichol from Elgin Park won the event in 16:03.
“I was pretty happy with the result, fifth place overall,” said Kuchar. “I kind of wished that I could have stayed with the front pack a bit longer, but other than that I was pretty excited about that performance.”
Crowe athletes Jill O’Hearn and Sety Roshdi Benam also competed in junior girls for J.L. Crowe, and Seven Summits Learning Centre athletes Cooper Legler and Ella Svenson raced in senior boys and junior girls.
J. L. Crowe cross-country coach Colin Adamson has been training Kuchar throughout high school and recommended a change in strategy after Kuchar finished eighth overall at the 2021 BC X-Country Club Championship at Beaver Lake, near Victoria On Oct. 23.
“He played it a little bit safer on this one,” said Adamson. “He went out a little too quick (at Beaver Lake), had a crazy first kilometre … So we wanted to be a little more conservative and play it smart so he could qualify for Nationals.”
A shrewd move given the top-6 made Team BC, and Adamson believes he can have an even better result in Ottawa.
The BC Team is considered one of the top contingents in Canada. About 250 athletes from across the country will compete in the event, many of them potential national team members and Olympians.
“There’s a lot of depth in BC right now, and a lot of depth across the country in the field, but I would assume that he will do really well, top-15 for sure,” said Adamson. “It’s a one day, one race event, and anything can happen on race day.”
Kuchar’s previous accomplishments include a gold medal in steeplechase at the 2019 Royal Canadian Legion National Track and Field championship. He also won gold in steeple, silver in the 1,200-m run, and bronze in the 800-m at the provincial championship. He was awarded the BC U16 Athlete of the Year in 2019.
The 2020 x-country season was cancelled due to COVID, but Kuchar continued to train, and hopes that maintaining a rigorous program during the pandemic will give him a competitive edge.
“It’s going to be really competitive,” said Kuchar. “The top runners from B.C., Alberta, and Ontario especially are going to send some really strong teams, so I’m excited to race against the best in the country.”
Kuchar will race for Team BC in the 6-km event at Nationals, and also hopes to count points for the team competition, where the top-4 runners from each team are awarded points depending on their finish. First place gets one point, second place two points, third place three points etc. The team with the least points wins.