Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
The magnitude of winning an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations cross-country race is not lost on Jack Gregory.
A 14-year-old Grade 9 student at Napanee District Secondary School, Gregory captured gold in the novice boys division at the OFSAA provincial high school novice boys championships Saturday, Nov. 5 at Dagmar Ski Resort in Uxbridge.
“Even just warming up you could see just how many people were there. It was quite intimidating, actually,” Gregory said.
Turns out, there was need to stare down the competition though as the other 250 runners all followed Gregory across the line. Gregory completed the 4-kilometre course in 13 minutes 57.83 seconds, ahead of silver medallist Colonel By’s Owen Siderus (14:05.05) and Riverdale CI’s William Scharf (14:09.03) who captured bronze.
The OFSAA victory capped off an undefeated fall cross-country running season for Gregory.
He went 6-for-6, also winning races at Trinity College School in Port Hope, a Turkey Trot race, pre-OFSAA at Dagmar as well as the Kingston Area Secondary School Athletic Association and Eastern Ontario Secondary School Athletics championship meets.
Pre-OFSAA gave Gregory a chance to test the provincial championship course at Dagmar early in the season.
“It was tough,” he remarked. “There was one hill in particular near the start of the course that was really quite challenging.”
Gregory returned for the OFSAA championships prepared and shaved 10 seconds off his previous time running that course.
“I knew what was coming and when the hills were coming, that sort of thing,” he said.
Preparation only carried him so far. The win required a lot of strong mental fortitude to push through, even if it’s almost like a blur to him now. He wasn’t feeling his best that day.
“I kind of just went out there and did my best, honestly. I can’t really put it any other way,” he said.
“I looked more into the future, like this sucks right now, but if I win that would be incredible.”
Asked how he got through it, Gregory isn’t even sure.
“Honestly, I just sort of like…I couldn’t even tell you,” he responded. “I’m still shocked that I was able to do that.”
After the race, “I couldn’t even process it in my head at the moment. It was really empowering almost. It sounds weird, but it’s true.”
Noting his mom Erin introduced him to running quite a number of years ago, Gregory also achieved great success in cross-country running at the elementary school. He won all of his races the past couple of years and that has carried over to the high school level.
Also running at the Athletics Ontario club level, Gregory expects to face strong competition Sunday, Nov. 13 at the Ontario Cross Country Championships at Fort Henry in Kingston. He is keeping his expectations in check.
“I will be running in the U16 race and I’m currently 14 so I’ll have some challenge,” he said. “I’m not expected to win it.”
That’s okay with him. He thrives on big competition and it’s more experience as he prepares for national championships later this month.
Watch for more on Jack Gregory following the provincial and national championships and in the next edition of Total Sports Quinte magazine.