A last-minute decision by Jonathan Doyon gave the Duchess Park Condors boys' cross-country running team the fuel it needed to take first place away from their Vanderhoof rivals.
The Condors saw five of their six runners competing in the northern zone high school championship Saturday on the D.P. Todd secondary/Moores Meadow course finish in the top 14 in the boys' race to edge out the Nechako Valley Vikings for the gold medal. The College Heights Cougars placed third and Dawson Creek secondary was fourth.
Doyon placed 14th (27 minutes) but was originally entered as a student at D.P. Todd, a quirk attributed to the fact he didn't decide to compete until the deadline for entries was looming, according to Condors cross-country coach Chris Budac.
"He's a teenaged boy," said Budac about the Grade 9 student's tardiness. "When they were giving out the awards his name was mentioned and then the school that he went to was mentioned. It's happened before."
Budac said the similarity in the shortened school names - DPSS for Duchess Park and DPTS for D.P. Todd - has caused confusion for many people through the years. Once the error was obvious though, everything was straightened out and Doyon was officially a Condor.
The Vikings usually field a strong contingent at the zone championship so it was nice to topple the boys, said Budac.
"I think it's nice to have a challenge once in a while," said Budac. "When they showed the pictures of the top 20 boys the group of yellow jerseys in there was nice."
The other members of the Condors team were a trio of Grade 12 runners, Liam Stewart (fourth, 0:25:01), Zachery Matyas (fifth, 0:25:34) and Luke Holmes (sixth, 0:25:40), who started training together five years ago. The other member of the team was Owen Stewart (ninth, 0:26:55).
Vikings coach Brian Nemethy said the Condors' boys team should place well when his school hosts the 2012 provincial championship on the same course, Nov. 3, with having five runners in the top 14 at zones.
"That's what I had three years ago when my girls were fourth in the province and just missed third by seven points," said Nemethy.
The Vikings girls' team won the zone title for the fourth straight year with the CHSS Cougars and DPSS Condors finishing second and third, respectively. Cierra Verduzco was the top runner for the Vikings, placing third (0:19:11), while Julia Steinebach (0:19:35) also placed in the top 10 for NVSS coming in sixth.
-- As expected, Emma Balazs of the Kelly Road Roadrunners, and Alex Nemethy of the Vikings placed first for girls and boys, respectively, in the north. Balazs finished 28 seconds ahead of her closest competitor in 18 minutes, 10 seconds, while Williams Lake's Danika Robson came in at 18:38. Nemethy edged out Austin Bartell of PGSS with a time of 23:23 compared to 24:38. Nemethy's time was 44 seconds faster than the time he ran two weeks earlier. Issac Goodrich of the CHSS Cougars placed third in 24:51 followed by the trio of Condors.
Brian Nemethy said it'll be strong competition from the Island and Vancouver area runners at provincials but he expects Balazs and Alex Nemethy to place well.
"It is tough," said Nemethy. "You've got to have some luck with you that day and you've got to be really fit. I'm hoping Emma will medal. She's got the advantage with the course and she has the skills."
With the hills on the course, Nemethy said runners need to pace themselves and plan out their strategy ahead of time.
"I know when the girls came off the second hill this past weekend, the girls between No. 2 and No. 12 were spread out on the first lap, but on the second lap they were all bunched up," he said.
-- College Heights qualified seven runners for the provincial meet in both the boys and girls race and also qualified their boys and girls teams.
-- The top 20 qualifiers at zones in both the boys and girls events and the top three teams all earn a place at the provincial championship.