Chasing the dream
Owen Munnings had little interest in running until he reached high school.
The 17-year-old, Grade 12 student at Smithville Christian High School gave cross country a shot in Grade 9, unsure of what to expect.
“I remember the first day of cross county I went with a Grade 11 guy and we got lost,” Munnings recalled. “It was supposed to be 40 minutes back and out and we did like nine or 10K and took an hour. I think that was the first time I thought I could do this.”
Munnings then entered an invitational meet to see how he stacked up against the competition.
“I got home and my mom was expecting me to tell her I finished 30th or whatever and I finished fourth,” he smiled.
Fast forward to the present and Munnings has committed to the University of Alberta for the fall where he will study mechanical engineering and run for the school’s track team.
“All of that evolved into I’m going to run at university,” he said.
Before he heads out west, Munnings is concentrating on finishing off his high school career with a trip to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship (OFSAA) in the steeplechase.
“I’m not sure how I got into it specifically,” Cummings said of the steeplechase. “I knew I was good at the 3,000, I’m fairly good at the 1,500, but I’m not the stand out, so what if I took that and added a new thing?”
Cummings, who placed first in the senior boys category Thursday at the Niagara Region High School Athletic Association zone 4 track and field meet at Centennial in Welland, admits the event is far from the norm.
The steeplechase is 2,000-metre event which sees competitors race against each other while navigating four hurdles with a pit of water on the other side.
“You can do anything you want to get over the hurdles,” Munnings explained. “The goal is to not land up to your waist. I did it today without getting my left foot wet at all which I was pretty proud of.
“It’s a lot of squishing.”
Munnings, who last year won a bronze medal in the AO (Athletics Ontario) championship in steeplechase, admits the event is not for everyone.
“I remember my first season, the goofy guys on my team were all doing steeplechase, and one of them said their dad told them to take a bottle of shampoo and wash their hair in the pit at one point,” he laughed. “It’s kind of a fun event. It’s either really silly or you train for it seriously and I kind of fall into that second boat.”
Thorold Elite Track Club where coach Steve Fife likes Munnings’ skill set for the steeplechase.
“It’s something we both thought he would be good at and we wanted to get something that was a little bit different than just running on the track or cross country running,” Fife said. “We thought it would be a good fit because he’s got the speed, the endurance and the toughness for the event.”
Fife said the event is not for everyone.
“It takes a little bit of technical skill on top of being a good runner, on top of being somebody who is tough enough and determined enough to push through those five laps on the track when you get your feet and legs wet from the water jump.
“You have to be able to push through when you’re uncomfortable.”
Munnings’ time of 6:42.66 is the top mark of any athlete so far in SOSSA (Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association).
“It looks great and we’re really excited to see him run it again next week,” Fife said.
Fife said there is still work to be done to compete at the OFSAA level.
“We’re looking at all the times throughout the province and right now it’s about the eighth fastest time we’ve seen but we have yet to have a competitive race to truly see what he’s capable of,” he said. “We’re certainly trying to get it under 6:30.
“Every week will give us a better assessment if that’s a possibility or not. Right now we’re going to keep training hard and doing the best we can with the races we have.”
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