It's been a pretty good month of October, so far,
for local high-school cross-country runners.
Shortly after the announcement,
about a week ago, that the sport would be allowed
a form of Return to Play within the structure of SDSSAA
guidelines this fall, the release of a schedule was
unveiled, one that features a pair of preliminary
races, leading into a city championship on October
It might not resemble
anything close to normal, but at least these athletes
will get to the starting line - which is more than
could be said for highly accomplished Sudbury native
Kerry MacKelvie. There was no pandemic to be overcome
as she took the leap of faith, in the late 1980s,
adding cross-country to her multi-sport career at
Lockerby Composite School, one in which she also starred
in the middle distance track events.
"I didn't even start
with cross-country until grade 11 - and promptly broke
my ankle, before I could even race," said the
46 year-old long-time British Columbia resident earlier
this week. "But even that season, I have such
good memories of the team really rallying around me
in so many ways."
"I would go to the
meets and they would be carrying me around, a big
cast on my leg. I was really inspired by the whole
team aspect of cross-country, the fact that it's such
a shared experience."
Naturally quick, even
from her earliest days, MacKelvie excelled initially
in the sprints, enjoying the carefree nature of MacLeod
Public School track and field competitions, long before
she would really make a name for herself as a 400/800/1500
metre runner in high-school.
'That's always exciting
for a young child, when you are naturally good at
something," she reminisced. "I remember
going to track meets at Laurentian, eating hot dogs
and popsicles at the track, and absolutely loving
the whole experience."
Yet as Lockerby schoolmates
pushed and prodded her to join the fall running crew
that would take to the local trails, there was a different
phenomenon in play, one which continued to touch MacKelvie
through ten years of post-secondary training and racing
at either Queen's University or UBC.
"It definitely took
some convincing to get me out there," she suggested.
"But there was something different with cross-country.
No matter how you are doing, personally, in the race,
it does matter to the other people. You could be the
last counter on the team, but it really does matter
how many people you displace."
"That was interesting
to me, to discover that inter-dependency of teammates.
I think the feeling of celebration and accomplishment
is bigger, because it's shared."
For as breath-taking
as is the western coast scenery to which MacKelvie
wakes up to, each and every morning, there has always
been a soft spot for her training grounds back home.
"I have great memories of running the Laurentian
trails; that's such a beautiful course," she
said. "It's such a technical course, running
over rock - it's so rugged, and the hills are really
"I loved that. I
was so thankful for living right near Laurentian,
doing training there all the time, competing there."
Still, memories fade,
just a smidge, as she recalls her final year of high-school,
but her first ever appearance at the provincial secondary
school cross-country championships. "I don't
have a really strong memory of winning the cities
in 1991, but I think I must have," she stated
with a laugh.
(in fact, records maintained
by Peter Hocking confirmed that she did indeed finish
first at SDSSAA, forty seconds ahead of Sheila Aitken
and a minute faster than teammate Tonya Dunn)
"But going to OFSAA,
for the first time in cross-country, that year, was
a huge experience. I had been to OFSAA track many
times by this time, so I was prepared for the overall
size of the event. But I had never been in a big cross-country
race before, nothing even close to the 300 or so runners
that were there in my race."
"It was mind-blowing,
but really exciting, to be part of something like
that. We were shaking the ground as we ran. It was
unforgettable, to be in that thunder of hundreds of
runners, feeling like a stick in the river, riding
the current along."
Truth be told, Kerry
MacKelvie was far more than simply an athlete in the
crowd, a stick in the current, if you will.
Her university career
would be highlighted by a national title in the 1000m
indoor track event, running for the University of
British Columbia Thunderbirds in the winter of 2000.
In 2016, she competed at the American Masters Games
in Vancouver, capturing a bronze medal in the 800m
In 2018, she finished
first in the same race at the Canadian Masters Championship,
and last year, she qualified as a member of the B.C.
team for the Masters Cross-Country meet in Abbotsford.
Maintaining her training throughout her adult life,
but returning to competition in around 2013 or so
after a hiatus of roughly a decade, MacKelvie is appreciating
her current success even more than her accomplishments
as a teen.
"Exposure to the
masters track community changed my life, honestly,"
she said. "Winning the bronze medal in Vancouver
was the most exciting thing since I had won CI's.
It's super fun, there are great challenges, and I'm
Still, as she looks back,
MacKelvie recognizes an enduring quality to her passion
for running, one which shone through as former teammate
Darren Jermyn both teased her and supported her, racing
in Abbotsford. There's a special kinship that she
sensed, reaching out to coach Dick Moss some six to
seven years ago, her vision fixated on a possible
crack at a masters track and field world record in
Then she thinks of just
how innocently it all started.
we didn't train, exactly, for cross-country,"
she recalled. "All I remember doing is going
out to the field at Lockerby, running a couple of
times around the field, and then we might go and run
and do a little loop around Paris and Regent and come
back to the school."
"I don't remember
over-thinking my races in high school, which was good,"
she continued. "The more time I have spent with
the sport, the more I got further and further away
from that spirit of just going for it. I do over-think
"I wish, in some
ways, I was more like I was in high school, where
I could just jump into a race, barely do a warm-up,
maybe have forgotten the right shoes, but just go
out and run. That was the beauty of being young and
new to the sport."
That was the beauty of
SDSSAA cross-country, from 1989 to 1991, in the eyes
of Kerry MacKelvie.
Further Update: Beyond
her regular run workouts, these days, MacKelvie and
her husband, Shane O'Brien, have also kept busy with
a pandemic related endeavour. With Covid-19 forcing
the closure of an art gallery that O'Brien owns, the
tandem decided to put that space to good use, completing
various healthy living workouts on the site.
Taking it a step further,
MacKelvie and O'Brien decided to share their efforts
on a new youtube channel (Top of the Hill Fitness),
with an aim to motivate others who have encountered
trouble finding a place, and inspiration, to workout.
The back drop also allows
the couple to feature a different artist with each
workout, targetting largely the masters running demographic.
To access the on-line workouts, simply login to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XuKDnv5HPBI1Z6Fs_qDww/videos.