Cross-country runners at Neil McNeil High School won a spot in the history books last week by winning their sixth league championship.
Since 1958, when the all-boys school opened, only the soccer team has scored nearly as many back-to-back victories, with five in a row.
On Saturday, the team won at a whole other level, not to mention climate. Facing teams from across the province, they competed in 5, 6, and 7 km races on the fields and trails of Laurentian University, Sudbury where the temperature dropped to a chilly -3°C.
The midget team – Andrew Alexander, Nathan Gurrin-Smith, Desmond Lingard, Michael Workentin and Ben Ing – won the top spot at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSSA) championships, capping a season without a single loss.
To make the Ontario finals, Masterson said, cross-country teams have to log at least 16 practice runs.
But the five-man midget, junior and senior teams at Neil McNeil have already run more than twice that much – 34 practices since the third day of school.
Masterson, a cross-country coach for 36 years, said the Beach is a perfect training ground.
“We’re unbelievably spoiled — it’s awesome,” he said.
If they want to do intervals or speed work, the team runs the beaches boardwalk, marking off every 500 metres.
Masterson is a big fan of the Beach’s “killer hills,” like the one by the R.C. Harris water treatment plant.
Every night after practice along the water, he said the teams are all told to run back up a hill to Neil McNeil.
“Pick which one you want – Scarborough, Silver Birch, whichever – but you’re not walking up it, you’re running,” he said, laughing.