Belmin Mackie just keeps on running.
At the recent Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association Cross-Country Championships, held at Epinette Creek Trail in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, the Dakota Collegiate student came first in the Junior Varsity Boys category.
Deric Kornelson from Centre scolaire Léo-Rémillard finished second and Alain Baraka of Elmwood High School came third.
The St. Vital resident, who is 15 and in Grade 10, started running in Grade 7 at Victor Mager School and joined the Stride Ahead Tough Track club — which is affiliated with Athletics Canada and sub-affiliated with Athletics Manitoba — in Grade 8 and continues to go from strength to strength. He said the recent provincial championship race was one of his toughest challenges to date and he had a specific strategy going into the race.
"The race was very difficult, especially with a hill at almost every turn. I came into the race wanting to start off in first. Because running is a mental sport, I want the person behind me to think I’m not tired, so then he will give up," Mackie said, noting he also plays for the school soccer team.
"I run for Tough Track outside school and we had cross-country practices going into the race. The one person who I was afraid of going into the race was Deric, as he had been running very well at our last meets. I would consider him my rival."
Mackie said both his coach at the school, physical education specialist Christy
Capner, and his coach at Stride Ahead Tough Track, Andy Tough, have been pivotal in his development.
"I’d like to thank Mr. Tough for pushing my limits every practice and also Mrs. Capner for encouraging me to show up on practice days and take time out of her morning for our team," he said, noting the school held practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, which would involve three-kilometre runs.
Capner, who lives in Transcona, has only been coaching Mackie since September, but she believes he is capable of enjoying a long and successful running career.
"I have not seen his progression, but I have seen him battle through one tough race to come back and win a provincial gold medal," Capner said. "I’ve also witnessed him being a leader amongst his teammates, sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience with them to help them succeed on different courses."
She noted Dakota has always competed well in cross-country, which has been fostered by the collective spirit of the school’s community.
"One of the great things about Dakota Collegiate is that our administration encourages students to pursue any extracurricular activities they are passionate about. If we don’t currently offer the program, we find a way to make it work and do our best to be successful," Capner said.