Leaside runner unfazed by shoe loss as cross country team wins gold

Juniors, seniors hit the top podium step and Lancers claim overall gold for three medals

The loss of one shoe wasn’t going to keep Chloe Coutts from earning her Leaside girls’ cross country team a gold medal at OFSAA.

At the 100-metre mark of the race, another runner stepped on her right heel and her footwear flipped off.

“It was kind of like a stampede, where even if you wanted to stop and pick up your shoe, you couldn’t because you would’ve gotten trampled,” Coutts said in an interview. “I just kept running, wondering, ‘I wonder how this is going to go?’”

As the race went on, the foot got worse.

But, naturally, all was fine, Coutts said. The adrenaline was kicking in as she sped through the snowy, gravelly six kilometres, Nov. 2 in Sudbury, with one shoe.

After the race, with her foot sporting a deep blood blister, her father, Duncan Coutts, carried her the rest of the way to the car.

“He was joking, ‘You made my back hurt because I had to carry you’,” Chloe recalled. “You’re so pumped up on adrenaline, that I didn’t expect [my foot] would be as bad as it was.”

For two days, Coutts walked around on crutches, then had an additional nine days off as her foot healed. She couldn’t run at the most recent Athletics Ontario meet.

It was exemplary of the kind of dedication to the sport head coach Helen Panayiotou observes from her charges, who earned three golds at OFSAA. One in the aforementioned senior category, one for junior and another for an overall score.

Nicole Rampersaud and Panayiotou trained the team two nights a week, while the Central Toronto Athletic Club has them another two nights.

“I wasn’t expecting her to finish, but I know her drive,” Panayiotou said. “She knew the junior girls had won their gold. They have never won team gold for senior girls, so that was their motivation.”

Despite her troubles, Coutts finished 44th out of a field of 269 runners. Leaside’s top runner on the senior team was Arden La-Rose who grabbed 29th. Chloe’s twin sister, Sophie reached 64th, Sarah White 94th and Rebecca Snow 109th. The team’s total time was 1:51:57.79, only three seconds ahead of Sir John A. MacDonald in Waterloo. Combined with the junior team’s gold — Valerie Snow (22nd), Kyra Welch (44th), Abigail Smith (62nd), Lexy Rivard (84th) and Ella Findlater (183) — and novice runner Quinn Yeomans (22nd).

The running troupe will hunker down for the winter, and resume training again come March for track and field. Cross country’s core runners will then be joined by Isabella Goudros.

For Chloe Coutts, it’s all about the team effort.

“I think the fact that having a team makes cross country a lot more fun, and sometimes when things go sideways, you just have to roll with it,” she said.

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