Pan Am Senior Men. Photo by Lois DeEll.
The 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Championships was an unqualified success on February 29, 2020 at Bear Mountain Resort in Langford, BC. As the first time that a cross country running event of this calibre has been hosted in Canada, the day unfolded even better than hoped for, leaving an amazing legacy for future races in the region.
Runners and team staff from 12 nations (Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guadeloupe, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States) arrived for what would be the most demanding course in the championship’s history. Racing on the challenging course at Bear Mountain Golf and Tennis Resort, the athletes tackled multiple loops that included the Mother Bear hill—a 300m long lung-searing climb.
The day was a festival of cross country running built around the international championships. This included a Community Race, the Nations Cup (elementary/middle school), the Pacific Northwest Youth Cup (high school) and the 2020 Can Am Masters Cross Country Challenge (Canada vs. USA).
The senior women’s race was dominated by two-time Canadian Cross Country champion Geneviève Lalonde. She took the lead from the start with teammate Natasha Wodak close behind her with Peruvian Lizaida Thalia Valdivia and USA’s Carrie Verdon also in the pack. Lalonde extended her lead and with two kilometres to go it was clear she would win easily.
The men’s race proved to be a nail biter with Team USA and Brazil battling it out for a podium. Anthony Rotich from the USA took the lead but Brazil working as a team made several challenges and it was Johnatas De Oliveira Cruz and Rotich who ran neck and neck and on the home straight had a photo finish, both recording 32:50 but the Brazilian was announced the winner by a fraction of a second.
Canada took on the USA in the Can Am Challenge where the Canadians had a 18-14 lead and was undefeated on Canadian soil. Canada didn’t disappoint with a sweep in both the men’s and women’s races.
In the Pan Am team results Canada won the U20 Female and Senior Male categories. The USA won the U20 Male and Senior Male. Overall the USA was first with Canada second and Peru third.
The Nations Cup and Pacific Northwest Youth Cup brought local students to race and to experience firsthand the excitement of world class cross country running. This exposure to the sport will increase youth participation in all local running events.
The event was made possible by the hard work of approximately 140 volunteers and the generosity of local sponsors, the City of Langford, the Province of B.C., Greater Victoria Sports Tourism Commission, and various athletics Federations. 94 Forward and RunSport sponsored the school races and Raymond James contributed generously to the overall event.