The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) cross-country championships will be in Petawawa on Nov. 4. Touring the Petawawa Golf Club on Aug. 2 to record any necessary changes are, from left, members of the organizing committee Rick Schroeder, Cathy Schroeder, Steve Bauernschmitt, Victory Cleary, J.P. Sauve and Gary Serviss. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

OFSAA cross-country races coming to Petawawa

By: Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, August 17, 2017

The upcoming Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) cross-country championships will be held in Petawawa.

On Nov. 4, about 1,800 athletes and 5,000 coaches, volunteers, spectators and supporters are expected to descend on the area. They will be travelling from 20 districts to compete against some of the best runners in Ontario.

The OFSAA cross-country races are renowned throughout North America and are on par with New York and California for sheer event size.

About 250 participants will compete in seven divisions, which includes midget boys and girls (Grade 9), junior boys and girls (Grade 10), senior boys and girls (Grade 11-12) and a para category. They will be running 4 km, 5 km and 6 km.

“We probably have some of the best runners in North America competing and that is pretty cool,” said co-convener Rick Schroeder.

A pre-OFSAA race will also be held on Oct. 6, where 800 to 1,500 athletes will participate.

“It is a good indication to us,” Schroeder said. “Any hardcore schools who want to vie for medals and school championships will be here. The really high quality teams will be here.

“It is a really good dry run for us to make sure that everything goes smoothly and make adjustments if needed,” he added.

The events will not only be the ideal way to showcase the area’s beauty and the talent of its cross-country athletes, but will also be an economic boom; organizers estimate it will inject about $2 million into the local economy. It will, however, cost about $50,000 to run the event and the committee is continuously looking to secure sponsorships from individuals, organizations and businesses.

Co-convener J.P. Sauve is excited to bring more attention to the sport of cross-country.

“I think a lot of people don’t really know about the sport, but it is getting fairly popular,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see with the pre-OFSAA and the OFSAA coming here to Petawawa to see if people jump in,” Sauve added. “Maybe in the years to come, we’ll see more athletes participating.”

It is the third time that this event has been held in Renfrew County, but the first that it will be held at the Petawawa Golf Club.

In order to entice participants to the area, the organizing committee, in partnership with the Upper Ottawa Valley High School Athletic Association (UOVHSAA), made a bid highlighting the benefits of hosting the event locally.

The process took more than two years but ultimately, OFSAA officials proclaimed Petawawa the OFSAA’s 2017 home base. The committee quickly began work to ready the Golf Club for such a large crowd and toured the location on Aug. 2 to see what, if any, changes must be implemented.

“We are in really good shape,” admitted Sauve. “We have a really good committee. We are on top of things. It is going to be a great couple of days.”

With rolling hills, open spaces, wooded areas and scenic views, Renfrew County is home to some of the best cross-country courses in Ontario, said Schroeder.

“I think this, when all is said and done, will be one of the premier courses,” said Schroeder. “They’ll look at this and say that this is a great course.”

He believes that the golf course is an ideal venue with the Kitchissippi Ridge adding some challenge to the terrain. There is also ample parking nearby with the furthest being 250 metres away. This creates a more spectator-friendly venue than some other past locations.

“We’ve had some OFSAA’s where we’ve had to stay an hour away and we couldn’t get any parking,” said Schroeder.