On the flat grass of Abbotsford’s Clearbrook Park on Nov. 2, the Grade 12 student finished the five-kilometre run in 15 minutes, 44 seconds – 14 ticks of the clock faster than second-place runner Keaton Heisterman, of Brentwood College.
For Tiwana, the high school championship came just one week after he won the BC Clubs Cross Country Championship in Saanich, as a member of South Surrey-based Coastal Track Club.
Now, Tiwana is focused on winning the 2019 Canadian Cross Country Championships, held Nov. 30 at the same park in Abbotsford where he won the provincial title over 259 other competitors.
During the Nov. 2 race, Tiwana ran with a large pack of athletes until the final kilometre, when he picked up the pace, created separation and won the first-place medal.
“It felt good,” Tiwana said with a smile during an interview outside his Fleetwood-area home. “There were a bunch of younger students from the school cheering me on, and some of the club athletes as well.”
— Kelsey Bryant (@mskelseybryant) November 2, 2019
Tiwana was in Grade 9 when got started in cross-country running, after a one-time try in Grade 8.
“My dad got me into it, because he did marathons, so he’s pretty good himself – he qualified for Boston Marathon and stuff, so it’s always been in the family but I never really got serious about it until Grade 9.”
At provincials, he’s climbed the ladder to the top, starting with a 79th-place finish in Grade 9, a fifth-place result in Grade 10 and, last year, a fourth-place finish.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of practice, and I run pretty much seven days a week,” Tiwana said. “Three days I do here, and four days I’m down in White Rock with my club.”
Tiwana, 17, said he likes the “rawness” of running.
“Compared to other sports, this is all based on how much work you put in, and you can see the results. Like, starting in Grade 9, for me, you can see times for the events and as you continue to practice, you see those times get lower and lower, the progress you’re making, and I like that. In other sports you sometimes don’t see that progress as much, and it’s clear in this sport. It’s very distinct and defined.”
At nationals on Nov. 30, Tiwana’s goal is a top-five finish.
Beyond that, he’s hoping to run with a NCAA Division-1 university. “I’ve talked to a few universities but nothing is decided yet,” he said.
Amber Forsythe, his coach at Fleetwood Park, described Tiwana as “a really quiet kid” who is now getting noticed for his running abilities.
“He kind of was unnoticed, but then last year at provincials he raced against three grade-12s and lost to them,” Forsythe explained. “He said, ‘I’ve got this,’ and set his mind to it, to win. He kind of came out of his shell over the past year, and has these younger kids looking up to him. It’s great to see.”
Tiwana said he likes running both cross-country and track events.
“In track, I did pretty well and went to nationals in August and came second in the 3,000 (metres), in Nova Scotia,” Tiwana reported. “They’re just different, but I probably prefer cross country a little bit more. It’s kind of cool because everybody is running the same race, because in track there are so many different events happening at the same time.”
In other results at cross-country provincials, Earl Marriott Secondary runner Jeremiah Mackie was ninth, crossing the finish line in 16:29, while Semiahmoo’s Michael Miller was 13th, in 16:49, where he tied with Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tyler Wilson.
Sixth place in the senior girls race went to Southridge’s Maya Kobylanski, who clocked a time of 18:31. The Grade-12 runner was coming off a first-place finish at South Fraser championships, which were held last month at Crescent Park. Holy Cross runner Madison Stoochnoff was ninth in the senior girls race, rounding out the top-20 finishes from Surrey competitors.
In the four-km junior girls run, Elgin Park Secondary’s Maella Hodgson – who won silver at South Frasers last month – was the top South Surrey competitor, finishing in fifth place in a time of 14:52, while other Surrey runners included Semiahmoo’s Mackenzie Hack, who finished 10th, and Fleetwood Park’s Viviani Li, who was 11th.
The quickest Surrey junior boys runner was SAIL Academy’s Caiden Lee, who placed fifth with a time of 13:13, which put him just 10 seconds off the podium pace; J.L. Crowe Secondary’s Jaxon Kuchar won bronze in 13:03.
Other top Surrey runners were Elgin Park’s Isaac Baker, who placed 11th; Pacific Academy’s Max Holmes, in 12th; and Elgin’s Kaelem Dumont, who was 17th.
-with file from Nick Greenizan