Vernon’s Annika Ariano races to a 19th place finish in the U20 Women’s event at the Pan Am XC Cup cross-country running event in Victoria. (David Ariano photo)

Vernon runner wins team gold at Pan-Am Cup

Annika Ariano finishes 19th in U20 women’s race; helps Canada win team competition in Victoria

Vernon’s Annika Ariano collected a gold medal from the Pan Am XC Cup cross-country running event in Victoria.

Athletes from North, Central and South America gathered at Bear Mountain Resort in the provincial capital to compete in an event that is held every two years. The 2020 race was the first time the competition was held on Canadian soil. The 2018 event was in El Salvador.

The weather, venue and course could not have been better with the race director setting up a very technical course with plenty of ups and downs, tight turns and a memorable uphill 150-metre climb to the finish. The course was two kilometres with racers running anywhere from three-to-five loops for a total of six-to-10 km.

Ariano, a graduate of Seaton Secondary and former member of the Vernon Amateur Athletics Association who now runs for the University of Guelph Gryphons, place 19th overall in the U20 women’s event. Fellow Canadians Sadie Sidfstead was second, Ceili McCabe was sixth, Petal Palmer seventh and Mackenzie Campbell 23rd.

Ariano secured her spot on the team by placing top-six at the national championships in November in Abbotsford.

“The opportunity to represent Canada at this international race was an incredible honour and I’m very thankful to have made the team,” she said. “I would say the course at Bear Mountain was probably one of the hardest courses I’ve ever run on but that’s what made it really fun as well.”

READ MORE: Vernon runner third at nationals

Along with the individual event there was also a team event for the Pan Am Cup as well as the North American, Central American and Caribbean Cup (NACAC). Winners are decided by totalling up the placings for the first three and first four respectively crossing the line per team with the lowest number winning. The U20 ladies garnered golds in both team competitions.

In men’s U20 category the Canadians in the mix included Phillippe-Morneau-Cartier (7th), Keon Wallingford (8th), Scott Arndt (12th), Dakota Goguen (17th) and Kevin Robertson (19th). In the. Team event Canada earned the bronze medal in the Pan Am Cup and the Silver in the NACAC category.

The senior women’s race was very exciting with some of Canada’s top 10,000m and steeplechase runners vying to be Pan Am XC Champion. U SPORT (2018), National XC (2018, 2019) champion as well as an Olympian and World Track and Field Championship steeplechase competitor Genvieve Lalonde broke away from the pack about three-quarters of the way through the gruelling 10km race to a convincing victory. Natasha Wodak, Pan Am Games gold medalist in the 10,000m and Olympian, finished fourth. Other Canadian women were: Victoria Coates (7th), Maria Bernard-Galea (10th), Hannah Woodhouse (16th) and Kirsten Lee (18th). As for the team event the Canadians just barely edged out the Americans for gold in both the Pan Am and NACAC.

The senior men’s race was also a barnburner between the Americans and Brazilians ending in a sprint finish with the Brazilian runner taking the victory in a photo finish. Senior Canadian men put in a very consistent showing with Connor Black (USPORT XC champion 2018) 5th, John Gay seventh, Mitch Ubene 11th, Jean-Simone Desgagnes 16th and Kieran MacDonald 18th. Their individual placings netted them third and second place finishes in the Pan XC Cup and NACAC respectively.

That marks the end of a long season of cross-country for these runners.

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