WINDSOR, N.S. - He was well ahead of the competition, but he didn’t look back.
“With about 600 metres left to go, I’m running back and forth to cheer him on, he asks ‘where are they?’ because he had no idea where the other racers were,” Jacob Benoit’s cross-country coach Paula James says.
“I told him, ‘they’re hundreds of metres behind you!’”
Seventeen-year-old Jacob Bennett, a Grade 11 student at Avon View, won gold at the cross country provincials in October and is getting ready to head to nationals in Kingston, Ontario on Nov. 25.
“I’m trying to get some long runs in, stay healthy, eat well, I know I can’t get sick at this point,” Benoit said. “Just going in excited and full of adrenaline.”
Benoit said he was thrilled to see his name at the top of the standings during the provincials.
“I knew I was going to be fairly well matched against some other runners in the province, so I trained hard up until a week before provincials and tapered a little bit, took some time off and tried to stay loose for the race,” Benoit said. “It worked out really well for me.”
He’s not wrong. In the senior men’s six-kilometre run, Benoit finished with a time of 19 minutes, 13 seconds. Second place crossed the finish line at 19 minutes, 40 seconds.
“I went into the race, trying to feel relaxed, but at the same time focused,” he said. “I knew I’d have to leave everything on the course just to do well. It felt incomparable to anything.”
One of Benoit’s major goals is to head to the next Canada Games in approximately four years time.
Passion for the sport
This is Benoit’s third year in track and field, and fifth in cross-country.
“I just love the feeling you get when you run, you have to exert yourself a lot,” he said. “You always want to achieve a new goal you’ve set for yourself.”
Benoit says there’s a balance between working with his teammates and coaches and pushing himself towards his goals.
“If you have someone else in the workout with you who can push you, you’re going to get a lot more out of it,” he said. “Having someone who’s a little ahead of you is always good, they push you to go faster.”
Benoit said the core group of runners and track athletes at Avon View are a close-knit bunch, like a family.
“We all push each other to do well,” he said. “There’s a lot of team bonding and I guess it’s helpful to lean on somebody when you need support.”
Benoit said he remains so passionate about the sport because he likes the challenge that it brings.
“A lot of people want to win, but don’t want to put in the effort, but I want to put in the effort and I want to win,” he said. “I want to keep pushing myself.”
Making Avon View a track Mecca
Benoit’s coaches, Paula James and Ian Shaw, say they’re incredibly proud of how far the athlete has come already, and are hopeful that more students at the school will take an interest in the sport.
“This is my third year working with Jacob through the club as well as the school and the growth that I’ve seen in him as an athlete has been remarkable,” James said. “As senior boys champ, that’s the top of the ladder, he’s reached that in Grade 11.”
James said she’s really excited to see Benoit head to nationals, where she says he can find some competition that will push him.
“He had no contest provincially, not at Atlantics, so he’ll have to go to nationals to see what he can do,” she said. “During the race at provincials, Jacob didn’t know how much he was ahead, he was completely focused on what he was doing.”
Shaw said he’s hoping, through athletes like Benoit, to make Avon View a major player in the track and field world.
“We want to turn this area into a running Mecca - track and field, cross-country, everything,” he said.
James and Shaw started coaching together at West Hants Middle School; they’re hoping that the students they worked with at WHMS will become track athletes at Avon View.
“When we first got here, there were like five kids on the team,” Shaw said. “Each year has been getting busier.”
James said Avon View is well known in other sports, but only now are starting to be recognized in track, adding that Benoit will continue to be a part of that