July 18th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 29
Nothin’ but Child’s Play
Sinister 7 high school team places 9th out of 182 mixed teams
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Pass Herald Reporter
Seven teenagers, all aged between 12 and 19 years old, ran as a team in the Sinister 7 Ultra over the July 7 weekend and finished in 9th place out of 182 teams in the “mixed” category, making the 100-mile ultra/relay race across remote Alberta backcountry seem like, well, child’s play.

Each year, Sinister Sports, the organizing body of the ultra race, sponsors a high school team to compete. This year, Child’s Play - made up of Libbey Wilmot, 14, Maggie Gietz, age 12, Anna Koevoet, 19, Gage Paskiewich, age 17, Baden Clossen, 15, Noah Schuh, 16 and Marin Anderson, age 12 - represented the high school team.

It was the youngest high school team ever and yet, they set a record among prior years for being first to complete the course in under 18 hours since the race became 100 miles (with a time of 17:58:27).

Behind the team was a dedicated group of parents, friends and local athletes that helped build, shape and motivate the teens.

“This was our first year where I felt that everybody was so committed. Training went amazing, we didn’t have any injuries, and we had a group of kids who all were in it for the right reasons and were connected with what it means to be out in the mountains. They all got along and supported each other really well," says head coach Jody Peebles. This was Peebles’ first time as head coach, although she played a support role for the last seven years.
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Training started about six months out from the race, in January 2018.
“We do some tryouts where we push them super hard, almost to test them to see what they’re capable of and how resilient they are. Their resiliency, their perseverance and their character are more important to us than whether or not they can already run very far because that’s what it takes for a race like this,” says Peebles.

For the first four to five weeks, training involved a lot of a lot of strength and high-intensity interval exercises and then each athlete got an individual plan based on what leg of the race they were anticipated to run. They trained three to four times a week on their own and once as a team where the runners, along with coaches and trainers, did some sort of group workout together, like a long run or snowshoes.

“They have to be super independent and super committed for it to work. You can tell when an athlete hasn't been doing the workouts they were supposed to do on their own because they start to get injured or they can’t keep up," says Peebles.

About three months out, they started meeting twice a week to train as a team, in addition to their solo workouts.

And when it came down to race day, July 7, trusting in their training plan, their fitness, and even themselves was critical in their success.

“I was quite well prepared,” says 17-year old Gage Paskiewich, who ran leg 4. “You have to be in the state that you want to do it. If you don’t want to do it, then you won’t do it.”

This was Anna Koevoet’s sixth time running in Sinister 7, and third time completing Leg 3, also called Satan’s Sack for being a dry, hot and exposed leg of the race.
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“Leg 3 is super fun. It wasn’t super hot like in past years, which was very nice but it was still challenging. I tried to race smart rather than aggressively and have trust in the training that we had done,” says Koevoet, who actually joined in the training in May after she completed school. Sinister Sports allows for one-year high school alumni to join the team as well.

Being the oldest of the group and being more experienced than the other runners, Koevoet acted as a mentor to hear teammates, of which only leg 6 runner Noah Schuh had participated in the race before.

“Experience really paid off and to have that knowledge after having raced that many times really helped the team,” she says.

One of the youngest team members, Marin Anderson, ran home run to the finish line. The last leg of the race is usually completed in the dark so local athlete Andrew Fairhurst shadowed her to the finish.

“The moment at finish line, running through with all my teammates following me even though it was 1 in the morning, all of the parents cheering... That was the best moment for me,” says Anderson.

For Peebles, coaching the team was near to her heart. Being a runner herself - and running in a team in seven Sinister races – Peebles knew just how positive an impact the challenge can have on a teen.

"For me, [participating in Sinister 7 has] had a huge impact on my life, just in having a community that you can connect with and something that really encourages healthy, active living. I think it’s really good for kids to learn that they can do really hard things,” she says. “When they tackle something like this and they’re successful and they make it through even though it was super, super hard, they have a resiliency that they realize that they can actually do these hard things and make it through."

Sinister Sports sponsoring has been sponsoring a high school team ever since the second running of the Sinister 7 Ultra, and it all came down to getting young people more involved.

“My former co-director and I were thinking of ways to get the community more involved, and we agreed that we would like to do something to support young athletes. I recalled my own athletic endeavours in school,” says race director Brian Gallant. “I personally only had basic track and field options at that age, and I thought it would be great to challenge students with a big event like Sinister 7, to give them the chance to compete alongside world-class athletes. It is really fulfilling to see these young people put in so much time, and then step up to crush this incredibly difficult race.”

Sinister Sports also provides a $500 scholarship to a graduating student, as well as an additional $1,200 in support to the Athletic and Academic Society.

“It’s important to me that young people are inspired and challenged,” says Gallant, “and I just hope that I can help make that happen in some way.”
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July 18th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 29
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