At the BC High School Cross-Country Running Championships in Vancouver this weekend, junior and senior girls will run 4.6 kilometres, while junior boys run five kilometres and senior boys complete 6.9 kilometres. It may be the last time the distances are lopsided between genders.
Revelstoke Secondary School and cross-country coach Jeff Wilson are leading the charge for gender equality in high school cross-country running.
In a new motion that will be voted on at the 2017 annual general meeting for B.C. Cross Country this Friday, RSS coach Jeff Wilson is asking that the girls run the same distance as the boys.
The motion reads: “WHEREAS, both girls and boys run the same distances on the track; whereas, nearly all US state championships run equal distances; whereas, to ensure we send a positive message about equality to all of our runners BE IT RESOLVED that girls and boys of the same age run the same distance at the BC High School Championships with appropriate distances being 5km for Junior Boys and Girls and 6.5km for Senior Boys and Girls.”
It was seconded by Vernon Secondary coach Mark Bendall.
During the first north zone race of the season in Revelstoke this year, RSS set a tone for the rest of the zone. The race, held on Oct. 4 at the green belt near the Illecillewaet River saw senior boys and girls contest the same 5.7-km course, while junior boys and girls raced the same four-kilometre course.
“The north zones are trying to work on gender equity at our races,” Wilson told the Review after the race. “Course have always been shorter for the girls and I think that sends the wrong message to our high school students.”
Grade 12 student Alana Brittin, one of the RSS runners competing at provincials this weekend, said she liked that the senior girls were running longer than the year before.
“I think the senior girls should run longer,” she told the Review. “Now they made the senior boys and girls equal.”
Last fall at the 2016 national cross country championships in Kingston, Ont., senior girls ran the same 10 kilometre course as the boys for the first time.
Wilson said he thinks the motion will pass Friday night and that other regions will soon follow suit.
“The ‘gender-equal’ distances and race formats that we provided to athletes in the North Zone this year were a success from a coach’s perspective and the athletes were pleased with the changes,” he said. “I also believe that there is a swelling of support for this change in the province and I hope that our motion is passed.”
If passed, juniors would all run the same about five kilometre-distance and seniors would compete over 6.5 kilometres at the 2018 B.C. High School Championships.