Speed River’s new recruit Mike Tate showed himself to be the class of the field as he powered his way over the hills, and around the innumerable twists and turns of the Oasis ZooRun 10k Saturday morning to break the tape near the wildebeest pen in 30:51, some 45 seconds clear of the field. The women’s race was much more competitive as Ethiopian-Canadian newcomer Boneshi Woldegorgis (36:12) played a cat and mouse game with Waterloo’s Erin McClure, stalking her most of the way before surging ahead for the win over the final kilometre. New talent was the theme of the day as the accompanying 5K was won by two 14-year-olds, Max Davies (16:31) of the University of Toronto Track Club, and Pickering’s Maria Sandor (20:33) of The Gazelles Cross Country Club. Including the sold-out CubRun, some 5,300 participants took up the 16th edition of the ZooRun challenge. Together, they raised more than $47,000 for animal research and preservation programs at the Toronto Zoo, bringing the 16-year fundraising total to over $443,000.
Temperatures were a chilly 11c at the 10k start with light wind, though things warmed up to a sunny 19c by the time the 5k and CubRun events were done at midday.
On the men’s side, Tate led the 10k from start to finish. The 23-year-old native of Heatherton, near Antigonish, Nova Scotia just joined Guelph’s Speed River Track & Field Club and coach Dave Scott-Thomas in July after a successful 5-year NCAA career at Southern Utah University, Cam Levins’ alma mater. Having already represented Canada on the track and the country, he also took down Cam’s indoor 5000m school record earlier this year with a speedy 13:37.12. Encouraged to move to Guelph by former Speed River Olympian and fellow-Antigonish native Eric Gillis, Mike most-recently placed 3rd at the Athletics Canada National 5K Road Championships (14:19) behind Ben Flanagan and Lucas Bruchet.
“I took the lead pretty early on,” he said after this morning’s race. “I felt comfortable in the lead and decided to go early. It’s a tough course but a lot of fun. It was great to have my first Canada Running Series race be a win!” With his affinity for cross-country, Tate says he will kick on from here and build for a strong performance at the Canadian National XC in Kingston on November 24th, and hopefully a place on the Canadian team at the IAAF World Cross in Aahuus, Denmark next March. Two more of Toronto Olympic Club’s East African-Canadians claimed second and third, with Hussen Hashi taking second in 31:36 and Berhanu Degefa third in 31:42.
A recent immigrant to Toronto, Boneshi Woldegorgis also has some pedigree, having a 5k road-best of 15:49 run in France 3 years ago. Behind her and McClure, popular veteran Lioudmila Kortchaguina took third, in what was perhaps one of the final competitive road races of an illustrious career that has spanned two decades since she arrived as a Canadian newcomer from Yekaterinberg, Russia in 2001.
Beyond the races up front, however, the Oasis ZooRun is about the joy of running, a family day of fitness and fundraising at a unique venue — and this year didn’t disappoint. The costumes in the 5k and CubRun were particularly outstanding in the sunshine, and perhaps the toughest job of the day went to Toronto Zoo’s Manager of Financial Services, Paul Whittam, and Race Director Alan Brookes who had to do the judging. A running flamingo took top honours in the 5k, and a team-effort of a playful cheetah, lion and panda were judged the stars of the CubRun.