Ed Hayfron, a promising young runner from Birchmount Park Collegiate

Birchmount Park Collegiate leads the pack

“To be the best, you have to beat the best” is one motto a local Scarborough teenager knows all too well. Birchmount Park Collegiate Grade 9 student Edward Hayfron beat over 300 American and Canadian high school students to take first place at a prestigious cross-country meet in Rochester, N.Y., late last month.

The McQuaid Invitational Meet, held annually at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester pits high school teams against each other in one of North America’s leading cross-country races. The meet hosts 23 races with over 7,000 participants.

Birchmount Park finished the day on a successful note as their Grade 9 and 10 boys left victorious, winning the sophomore race. There were 29 teams ran in the sophomore race, with more than 300 runners competing.

In addition to Hayfron taking first in the race, Birchmount Park student Luke Mackrell also finished an impressive third.

Although Birchmount has numerous promising young runners, it is undeniably 14-year-old Hayfron who is turning the heads of both Canadian and American coaches alike. Placing first as a Grade 9 competing against Grade 10s is no small feat. Birchmount Park assistant coach Bill Stevens admits that that kind of potential does not go unnoticed.

“The kid is pretty good so I ran him up in the Grade 9 race and he finished first, only four seconds away from the meet record,” Stevens said. “I’d say he definitely has a future in running if he wants to. I’ve coached for 44 years and he’s one of the best I’ve seen. He’s something special.”

Confident in his abilities, he wasn’t too nervous going to compete in Rochester last month, his first time there.

“This was my first time going to the States for a competition. It wasn’t too intimidating. I’ve raced against Grade 10s before. I knew I was going to be up with the pack, but I didn’t think I was going to win it,” he said.

With a greater chance of athletic success in the U.S., many promising Canadian high school athletes look to universities down south for athletic scholarships. Hayfron is no exception. He says he enjoys running so much, he hopes to pursue it further after high school.

“The plan is to get a Division 1 scholarship in the States, hopefully. That’s the plan anyway,” Hayfron said. There’s Wisconsin that has the best men’s team and there’s Oregon that always has a really good team.”

If Hayfron keeps pace with the level he is running at currently, American schools will undeniably find his talents desirable.

Cross-country running is a physically intensive sport and to be successful takes no shortage of hard work and dedication. Hayfron has been running cross-country since he was in the third grade but only competitively for the last two years. Since taking up the sport competitively, he trains extensively.

“I used to play soccer and a bit of hockey but now it’s just cross country. I love running and the scenery is amazing running through the woods,” Hayfron said. “On top of training for the school team I also do mileage on my own and I run for a local club with my club coach.”

Luke Mackrell also left the meet on a high note, beating out all but two runners to finish in third place. Mackrell, a Grade 10 student at Birchmount Park Collegiate felt intimidated about going to the U.S. to compete against American athletes. If he felt any pressure competing however, his results showed otherwise.

“It was kind of scary because you don’t really know what to expect from the competition,” Mackrell said. “Last year was my first time in Rochester and I placed 21st so I didn’t expect to do so well this year.”

The 2012 OFSAA Cross-Country Championships, which sees runners from across the province competing for bragging rights, will be held on Nov. 3 and will be Hayfron’s last meet of the season. He will make the trip to Heart Lake Conservation Area in Brampton, along with the rest of his Birchmount Park Collegiate teammates faring against Ontario’s elite runners.