Neil McNeil hosts annual boardwalk relay

Notre Dame student Sarah Gigi, centre, runs in a boardwalk relay race hosted by Neil McNeil High School on Oct. 17. PHOTO: Andrew Hudson
Notre Dame student Sarah Gigi, centre, runs in a boardwalk relay race hosted by Neil McNeil High School on Oct. 17.
PHOTO: Andrew Hudson

Sprinting over puddles and bright autumn leaves, hundreds of high school students ran a 4 x 3,000-metre relay along the boardwalk. Hosted last Friday by Neil McNeil High School, the relay brings runners from across Toronto – more than 50 schools and 1,000 students joined last year.

For Sarah Gigi, a Grade 9 student at Notre Dame, competing against senior as well as junior girls in the varsity race was a big step up.

“I don’t think I came in last,” she said, smiling. “That’s the goal.”

Dawn Pearson, Notre Dame’s head of physical education, said the boardwalk relay was the last race in a series before the board championships at Etobicoke’s Centennial Park.

Unlike the flat, springy run on the boardwalk, Pearson said the Centennial course has a big challenge – climbing a ski hill.

Hills or not, Pearson said cross-country is always rewarding.

“You’re running in a beautiful, scenic place,” she said, adding that the team’s previous race took them through woods and meadows in Vaughan’s Boyd Conservation Area.

Kat King, a math teacher who helps train the team, said the girls train four days a week, mixing 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000-metre races with hill climbs and sprint-powering intervals. The strongest runners have enough stamina to get a good kick at the start, power up the hills, and a sprint finish, she said.

Happy as she was to cross the finish, Gigi said all the sideline support is her favourite part of the sport.

“Everybody’s cheering for you,” she said. “You feel good about yourself after you run.”


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