For the last six years former competitive triathlete now turned Coach Brian Johnson, has been head of the Hunting Hills High School cross-country team. At that time Johnson was coaching volleyball but made the jump to the cross-country team because as he puts it, “It fit with my experience”.
Johnson remembers those early days when “I started with 12 runners and now I have about 45 on my team. So we’re in building mode!”
The Hunting Hills squad is on a mission. Last weekend they went up to
Wetaskiwin for the Peace Hills Cross-Country Meet. Thirty runners traveled with the team to the meet. Seven placed top three in different categories. Wetaskiwin Composite High School is the defending provincial champs. But at this meet, it was Hunting Hills High School that won the cumulative titles as well as top high school team.
“We want to win provincial championships this year. We want to be the top high school in the province,” said Johnson. “We’re real close right now!”
Often Hunting Hills cross-country has found themselves looking up to find Wetaskiwin as the provincial champs. This year Johnson believes that’s about to change. “I believe our team is stronger than they are. We’ve been fourth and third the last two years. And this year I think we have the team to do it.”
Johnson has reason to be confident. “I have a lot of kids who run well. And I have few outstanding kids who are definitely top one or two in the province right now.”
You’d have a skip in your step too if you had these stallions running on your team.
“Kieran McDonald is undefeated this year in Grade 12 and Matt Hope is undefeated in Grade 11.”
And if that wasn’t enough, Derek Evans in Grade 10 is also one of those kids you won’t beat, even after you’ve downed a Monster Energy drink.
And don’t let the term dumb jocks come out of your mouth. Johnson will attest that these students are great athletes, but they’re students first.
“Any kid who’s going to suffer for 30 or 40 minutes running hard on the hills is the same kind of kid who will suffer through a tough assignment. Lots of these kids have averages in the high 80’s and high 90’s. They work hard in school and they work hard in sport.”
And Hunting Hills will have to work hard come provincials on Oct. 15. That’s when Johnson and his Lightning cross-country thoroughbreds get a shot at being number one in the province.