MARS runners strike gold at Canadian Cross Country Championships


The Muskoka Algonquin Runners (MARS) had a historic day at the Canadian Cross Country Championships this past weekend, earning a gold and two silver medals at the November 28 event in Kingston. They are the first gold and silver finishes at the national level in the history of the club, after a bronze medal performance from the Men’s 40-49 team last year in Vancouver. In total, 27 runners represented Muskoka, making the MARS contingent one of the largest teams present.

Leading the were Lia Kutzscher, Kim Russel-Brooks, and Chris Watson, who all placed fourth in their age groups, while Troy Cox and Nancy Edson finished fifth in their respective categories. Bob Wild continued to show no signs of slowing down, as the veteran runner was crowned Canadian Champion in the men’s 80-84 division.

The MARS Women’s 40-49 team of Tina Steele, Jennifer Nicholson and Tannis Wetlauffer had a phenomenal day, combining for the team’s first gold medal performance. The Women’s 50-59 team of Lia Kutzscher, Kim Russel-Brooks and Nancy Edson were right behind, earning the silver after missing out on gold by a cumulative time of just eight seconds.

Canadian Champions in Women’s 40-49: Tina Steele, Jennifer Nicholson and Tannis Wetlauffer

Canadian Champions in Women’s 40-49: Tina Steele, Jennifer Nicholson and Tannis Wetlauffer

“Having a large team was a wonderful experience and we hope to build on this as we head into winter,” said MARS founder and runner Pierre Mikhail. “We are incredibly proud of all the runners that represented Muskoka at the Canadian XC Championships.”

The Men’s teams were equally competitive, with four runners in the 40-49 age group placing in the top 30 as Troy Cox (8th), Chris Watson (16th), Mark Sinnige (27th) and Pierre Mikhail (29th) all finished strong. The team placed second overall in the Men’s 40-49 race, falling to a dominant performance by the rival Newmarket Huskies who had three runners in the top 10. MARS was deep in men’s 40-49 with a second team of Tony Marra, Lowel Greib and Dave Johnstone also performing very well.

Katherine Ahokas, Jess Sheppard, Mary Unsworth and Darla Coles battled the fastest runners in Canada in the Senior Women’s race, as did Josh Stevens and Kip Arlidge in the Senior Men’s race. Congratulations to these intrepid racers!

Josh Stevens leads the Senior Mens race at Canadian XC Championships

Josh Stevens leads the Senior Mens race at Canadian XC Championships

While the Breslin Cup standings have not yet been confirmed, the MARS team is all but assured a club-best third place finish.
“Our goal this year was third, and next year we want to be top two,” said Mikhail. “To win Breslin you really need to be represented in many age groups, as each race your top five age-graded scores count. We accomplished that goal this year by fielding a Women’s 50-59 team, and we hope to get a Men’s 30-39 and 50-59 team in next year.”

The club will be taking a break until the week of December 28, with their new year schedule beginning with indoor track races in late January and February before the team hosts the Huntsville Half MARSathon and 10K race on March 6.

For those interested in joining MARS, the club will have a member sign up/information night on Tuesday January 5. For more details and the latest updates, visit the Muskoka Algonquin Runners website here.

Congratulations to the entire MARS team for their hard work this past season. The full championship roster is as follows: Madi Smrtka, Shannon Marshall, Zac Pinheiro, Graham Shearing, Ryan Pratt, Nathan Johnstone, Cameron Cira, Darla Coles, Jess Sheppard, Kat Ahokas, Mary Unsworth, Kip Arlidge, Josh Stevens, Kim Russel-Brooks, Nancy Edson, Lia Kutzscher, Bob Wild, Tina Steele, Tannis Wetlauffer, Jennifer Nicholson, Dave Johnstone, Tony Marra, Lowell Greib, Chris Watson, Troy Cox, Mark Sinnige and Pierre Mikhail.

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