Underdog Mealy Mountain Collegiate team wins gold
© Submitted photo
The Mealy Mountain Lady Hawk’s cross country running team pulled of a surprise win at the provincal cross-country running championships held in Springdale on Oct. 26. They came out with a gold medal, after only pulling together a full team right before their regional qualifier. Members of the winning team include (from left) David Rumbolt (Coach); Stephanie Cornect, Rachel Watts, Alexandra Morrison, Pam Duffett, Abigail Blackburn, and Christine Morrison (Assistant). Submitted photo
No one would ever have guessed the Mealy Mountain Collegiate Lady Hawks would win the Provincial Cross Country Running title this year. In fact, winning regional’s earlier in this month came as a surprise, given the difficulty coach David Rumbolt had in forming a full team this fall.
But these tremendous athletes proved that, in sports, quality is worth more than quantity.
The Hawks championship run began earlier this fall when Mealy Mountain Collegiate hosted Regional’s. Leading up to the race, the three high school runners, Rachel Watts, Pam Duffett, and Alexandra Morrison, thought they would be running for individual achievement, since they were two runners short of a team.
“It was a little frustrating, trying to get a team together,” says Alexandra. “But it ended up well…I’ve been doing this since Grade 8…all the hard work finally paid off I guess.”
Coach Rumbolt said that interest amongst high school girls for the cross-country running team seemed to come and go early in the semester. Little did he know that it would be two girls in grade eight that would end up giving the Hawks a full team.
“We had some interest that kind of ebbed and flowed in the few weeks leading up to (regional’s). Our two junior high runners came in almost literally the last minute. For them to come in, it managed us to field a team.”
The two grade eight girls, Abigail Blackburn and Stephanie Cornect, had no intention of running in regionals. But, after some encouragement from their gym teacher, the two decided to join, giving the Lady Hawks the minimum number of runners needed to compete as a team.
“I do Trapline every year and me and Stephanie were talking about (running in regional’s). We talked to Mr. Turpin (our gym teacher) about it and Mr. Rumbolt about it and joined,” said Abigail.
“I’ve been told that I run really fast, and that I should try running with the team,” adds Stephanie.
Given the fact that the five girls came together just a few days before the race, it was hard for the team to have huge expectations heading into Regional’s.
We expected to do well, but really didn’t expect to win. At first, Alex, Pam, and I were running independently…then at the last minute, Stephanie and Abigail showed up, so we were a full team,” says Rachel.
But all five Hawks put on a clutch performance during the race. The three high school runners all placed in the top five, while the two in junior high came in the top ten, giving Mealy Mountain Collegiate just enough points to beat their rivals from Labrador City.
Winning Regional’s was a great accomplishment and showed just how skilled the Hawks were at cross-country running. But the race for the provincial banner, held in Springdale on October 26, would be a different test altogether. Out in Newfoundland, they would face runners from six other schools, and they would race on a track they’ve never seen before.
“We kind of day dreamed about winning provincials, but we had expectations to do well, we just didn’t expect to really win provincials,” says Rachel.
But Coach Rumbolt was a man with a plan heading into the big race. With just a few weeks to prepare, he had the girls train in areas that matched the track in Springdale.
“In the last week of training, we tried to simulate, to some extent, what the trail was going to be…and we did have a plan in place prior to the race. So I think the girls felt comfortable heading into the race, they had a vision in mind of how they wanted to run it,” says Rumbolt.
The biggest adjusted would be the vast amount of pavement that they would be running on in Springdale, which is something that the girls wasn’t used to while running in Goose Bay.
“There was a lot of pavement, which wasn’t what we’ve been training on…” Says Abigail.
“I found it hard to transition to pavement,” adds Alexandra. “Because we’ve been training on the sand, but once you get into the race it really doesn’t matter, you’re just trying to catch the runner in front of you.”
At the end of the race, Rachel finished in 7th, Alexandra finished in 9th, Pam finished in 15th, Stephanie finished in 24th, and Abigail finished 29th, out of approximately 50 runners.
“I think we had a really strong outing, you’re competing against the best runners in the province.” Says Rumbolt. “There was a lot of thick competition. But as a group, I was proud of our performances, I don’t know if they could have had a better race really.”
“ I knew we had three really strong girls in (high school) heading into the event. And I thought our hopes laid on our junior high runners…they came through and ran a strong race.”
Heading into the banquet post-race banquet, the team estimated that they captured silver or bronze, which they were happy with. But the Hawks were in for the surprise of their young lives.
“Really, when we finished the race, we went back to our hotel and calculated the points and we thought we had silver or bronze,” says Rachel. “And when we got to the banquet, another team was called out to get silver and we kind of went crazy.”
Winning gold is always exciting, even more so when the gold medal is so unexpected. Coach Rumbolt was “deafened” by the sounds of joyful screams, as the victory began sinking in as reality.
“I jumped up out of my chair a little bit. I wasn’t really sure how to take it…it was really exciting,” says Alexandra.
Now that the race is over, the cross-country running team will be looking forward to next year, where this year’s championship banner is bound to create more interest in the program.
“Hopefully, having a banner hanging up will help us moving forward,” says Rumbolt.