After closing out her midget athletic season on a strong note, St. Basil's Annie Reader will look to open her junior year the same way when the city high school cross-country championships get underway today at Kinsmen Park.
The 15-year-old Grade 10 student hopes the success she had in midget track this past spring will translate well onto the trail in the junior girls four-kilometre event.
"I'm a little nervous, though, because I know everyone else has been training super hard," Reader said. "So I've been practising even more, training a lot of hills and stuff like that."
Today's meet begins with the midget girls race at noon, followed by junior girls at 12:30 p. m., midget boys at 1:15 p. m., senior girls at 2 p. m., junior boys at 2:45 p. m. and senior boys at 3:30 p. m.
This time last year, Reader was second to Rachel MacLennan of St. Mary's in the midget girls three-kilometre event, 9.64 seconds behind the winner.
At the Northern Ontario Secondary Schools Association championships, MacLennan was second and Reader fourth.
But Reader grabbed gold at the NOSSA track and field championships championships this past June, when she won the 3,000-metre race with a record-setting time of 11:98.88 and came first in the 1,500- metre steeplechase as well.
Reader credits her coaches, as well as her teammates, for helping prepare her for this year's junior cross-country event.
"Yeah, they help me a lot," she said. "Us girls all train together and we all push one another to do our best."
Turning in a time of 15:21.07 over three kilometres last year, Reader hopes to add less than five minutes to her time in this year's four-kilometre race.
"I'd like to get the win, of course, but another one of my goals is to finish in around 20 minutes," she said. "I'd like to get a best time."
Another contenders to top the junior girls field is Francis Mallinger of Sir James Dunn, whose school is a perennial favourite for several team titles.
Mariah Krancevich of Korah and Sir James Dunn's Madison Mascardelli will also run near the front.
On the junior boys side, Sir James Dunn's Brett Davie is the defending champion. Korah's Steve Stunell and Blair St. John will also contend, as will Daniel Turco and Matt Thomas of St. Mary's.
Seniors girls medal hopefuls include Sir James Dunn's Lynnea Lobert, last year's junior champion, and teammates Kyle Denardo and Jennifer Glassford, as well as St. Basil's Jullien Flynn and Taylor Foisy.
Among senior boys, Jack Carlyle, winner of the junior boys race last year, will be among the favourites, as will Phil Graf and Tyler Davie of Sir James Dunn and Korah teammates Stephen Erickson and Brad Pawson.
In each division, five members of the winning team, plus the top three individuals not on the championship team, will advance to the NOSSA championships, to be held Oct. 29 in North Bay.