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Central’s Palaschuk wins high school cross country gold, teammate Riak finishes second

Peacock’s Roney takes fifth place in senior girls division as Central and Peacock finish one-two in 4A team standings
Given their past performances in cross country and on the track in recent years, it seemed within the realm of possibility that Moose Jaw’s Jadyn Palaschuk and Akuol Riak could put together something special if everything went their way at provincials this past weekend.

But not even they could have expected how things turned out.

The Central Cyclones duo finished one-two at the Saskatchewan High School Athletics Association senior girls championships near Humbodlt on Saturday, with Palaschuk crossing the line in first in 15 minutes, 58 seconds and Riak just behind her in 16:06. To top it all off, Peacock’s Brooklyn Roney also had an incredible run and finished fifth overall in 17:09.

It was the highlight of a host of solid runs on the day for Moose Jaw competitors and one that had Central coach Scott Mitchell in awe of his athletes’ performances.

“I knew that Jadyn was going to be right in the thick of things, but I wasn’t sure how Akuol would finish other than the top five, for sure, but she stepped up big time,” Mitchell said. “The weather was phenomenal and it was a really tough course, which played to Jaydn’s strengths more than Akuol’s, which was even more surprising given how close Akuol finished. But Jadyn brought it was well and came away with a pretty impressive win.”

The race played out according to plan for the Central duo: get to the front, hold with the leaders and run away when the time came for the kick.

For Palaschuk, that time came with two kilometres to go. And just like that she was all alone on the course in first -- for about a minute or so

“I was sitting in third until about two kilometres and I was able to pass and get into first, but I didn’t know where anyone else was,” Palaschuk said shortly after gathering with Riak and their Central teammates for a fun TikTok celebration video on Tuesday afternoon. “No one was around, then Akuol was all of a sudden right there behind me… At the end, it was like ‘oh no she’s right behind me and she’s so fast, she has such a good kick’ but I was able to hold on. it was a lot of fun and such a great race.”

For her part, Riak threw all she had into the final stretch, but just couldn’t run down her indefatigable teammate

“I think there was a window there, but I just missed it, I was a little too late,” Riak said. “And in the race, I was just giving it my all, if I finished at all I was going to be happy.

“It was honestly really great and I was so happy to finish in the position that I did since there was so much competition in my age group,” Riak added. “So i think to be able to beat those girls and then come close to Jadyn was a good accomplishment.”

Palaschuk came into the race as the defending champion in the Grade 9 age group from two years ago, with the race not being run in 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic. Those credentials could have been enough for plenty of confidence, but running against competitors a year older than her was a bit of a concern for the Grade 11 distance specialist.

“It was good, I think it was my best race so far, definitely… and being with the older girls, too, there were a few I was worried about from Regina and Saskatoon, but then Akuol came out of nowhere and it was really close and fun,” Palaschuk said.

Roney’s fifth-place showing was in 17:09, just over 30 seconds back of bronze medalist Molly Lakustiak from Regina Martin.

Moose Jaw also saw a pair of top-10 finishes in the intermediate girls’ division, as Peacock’s Nikolina Kapovic covered the course in 12:20 to finish first among 4A runners and third overall. Central’s Katy Rogers was seventh in 12:38 and Peacock’s Madison Marktanner 14th in 13:11.

In the intermediate boys’ division, Kaeleb Tabin finished 10th in 11:23 and was the lone top-20 finisher for Moose Jaw.

Central’s Brynn Kell was the top local finisher in the junior girls’ division with a 13th place showing in 19:32, and the Tornadoes’ Payton Kell covered the course in 16:20 to finish 16th in the junior boys’ division.

Central’s Jacob King had the top Moose Jaw placing in senior boys at 19th overall in 19:40.

With so many top finishes, the team trophy title came as no surprise, with Central winning the 4A division with 23 points and Peacock right behind at 32 points.

“And if you look at the whole province, Central was third among 5A schools and Peacock in the top five as well,”  Mitchell said. “It’s a pretty good sign that we’re doing things right and that they’re doing things right at Peacock, too.”

For a complete rundown of all finishers across all divisions, you can click right here.