Northern Collegiate teen in for the long run

Sarnia’s Ryan Davies, right, leads runners Jeremy Helder and Joseph McIntyre, centre, during the Western Ontario Cross Country Championships held Nov. 14 in London. In the end, Helder pulled away and Davies outsprinted McIntyre to claim bronze. George Aitkin photo

Troy Shantz

Competing in his first race in almost a year, Sarnia’s Ryan Davies confirmed his status as an up-and-coming runner at the Western Ontario Cross County Championships earlier this month.

The 15-year-old Northern Collegiate junior finished 3rd in the U16 category in a field of 54 runners from across Southwestern Ontario.

Davies said the second-place finisher pulled away near the end leaving him in the battle for bronze.

“(We were) very close together the last couple hundred metres and I beat him by a stride or two,” he said. “You want to leave something in the tank. Whatever you’ve got left you give it all at that time.”

Representing the Sarnia Athletics Southwest Track & Field Club, Davies completed the 4-K route at London’s Fanshawe Golf Club in 13:34, which was 59 seconds faster than his pace a year ago on the same course.

The medal finish added to a growing resume. Last year Davies won the Lambton-Kent and district high school cross country finals before finishing 4th at OFSAA, the all-Ontario championships.

He comes from a running family. Older brother Andrew is a Canadian Cross Country champion who runs for McMaster University and Hamilton’s Harbour Track Club. Andrew Davies finished first in the Open category at the same Nov. 14 meet.

Another local runner, Rebecca Haney, was 11th in U16 girls.

When the pandemic shut down this year’s high school track and field season, Ryan Davies continued to train, running independently and taking direction online from the club’s coaches. He logs about 50 kilometres a week.

Staying focused without competitions is tough, he said. At this point, indoor and even outdoor track next spring looks doubtful.

“I’ll be surprised if that goes on,” he said.

Which made the London meet all the more special. Races were broken into 10-runner waves departing on 30-second intervals, Davies said. No mass starts or finishes.

Families were briefly allowed to greet their runner at the finish line before quickly exiting the area.

Davies took up cross country in Grade 4. The summer before high school, he joined the Southwest club and began to log some serious kilometres, he said.