Thirty years ago the first ever Saltcoats Autumn Summit cross country meet, the brainchild of Fred Nicholson, Brian Jones and others, took place at the Saltcoats and District Regional Park with roughly 50 kids from five different schools participating in an event that was started simply to give the children something to do.
"We just started it to give the kids something to run in," said Brian Jones, one of the main people involved in the initial event and someone who continues to be involved to this very day. "Before this all the kids ran in was the East Central meet.
"This opened it up to more kids and another race. Fred (Nicholson) and I, we invited a few schools and it's grown ever since."
Grown? More like thrived. While other events in other small towns throughout the province floundered over the years, the Autumn Summit instead expanded and flourished, becoming the largest cross country meet in the entire province.
A title the Autumn Summit solidified this past Friday as the 2014 30th anniversary edition attracted more runners than ever with 11-hundred participants registered from nearly 50 schools throughout Saskatchewan and Manitoba. "It really is the biggest cross country meet in the province," offered former principal at Saltcoats School and co-creator of the Autumn Summit Fred Nicholson. "There are about twice as many people here for cross country than there is that live in town."
That's a fact that both Nicholson and Jones are very proud of. And for good reason too. Not only does Saltcoats bring in over one-thousand student/athletes annually, nearly double the amount of the town's population, it does so without ever needing to reach out to surrounding areas for volunteers.
Instead, and in typical small town fashion, the residents of Saltcoats band together to make sure the event takes place each and every year. "Our volunteers are great," suggested Jones, continuing, "Teachers from Saltcoats School and parents of students are here helping out and our grade six, seven and eight students are here helping too by standing at checkpoints and working the canteen.
"Without them we'd never be able to keep this going."
As for the race itself, the route the kids run is also a reason they keep coming back year after year.
That's because the Autumn Summit takes the competitors through some of the most scenic areas of the Regional Park. "They run the Leflay Trail, which is out there somewhere and is part of the Yellowhead Flyway Bird Trail system," suggested Nicholson. "That's a large part of why the kids run here because it's very nice and scenic for them.
"And hopefully they will continue to come here to run and enjoy the park."
The following results are the top three finishes from each age category at the 2014 Autumn Summit. Squirt Boys - Garin Lammers (first, St. Alphonsus), Vinay Junek (second, St. Michael's), Kale McManus (third, St. Paul's). Squirt Girls - Laina Salter (first, Wynyard), Madison Bowtell (second, St. Michael's), Emma Gudmundson (third, Wynyard).
Beginner Boys - Carter Dumelie (first, Miller School), Thomas Salter (second, Wynyard), Evan Fisher (third, Wynyard). Beginner Girls - Callie Metzger (first, Grayson), Sydney Kotzer (second, MC Knoll), Aaliyah Kienle (third, Columbia).
Sneaker Boys - Hudson Bailey (first, Canora), Riley Stradeski (second, Whitewood), Tyson Keller (third, Davison). Sneaker Girls - Tori Paterson (first, Esterhazy), Danika Soltys (second, Invermay), Karyssa Watson (third, Rocanville).
Wee Pee Boys - Josh Haczkewicz (first, MC Knoll), Jacob Gulka (second, Canora), Riley Glaicar (third, Davison). Wee Pee Girls - Shanae Olson (first, Sturgis), Grace Keeley (second, Whitewood), Jasmine Mucha (third, MCS).
Pee Wee Boys - Josh Peppler (first, Langenburg), Zane Bayer (second, Sturgis), Kaleb Weinheimer (Columbia). Pee Wee Girls - Sadie McGriskin (first, KCI), Kira Kitch (second, KCI), Jade Fidek (third, Invermay).
Bantam Boys - Sean Paligan (first, Preeceville), Carson Sveinbjornson (second St. Michael's), Jaxon McLeod (third, St. Michael's). Bantam Girls - Sarah Novakowski (first, Yorkdale), Jill Gulka (second, Canora), Rachel Pankratz (third, Preeceville).
Midget Boys - Tyson Stadnyk (first, St. Henry's), Luke Nkwama (second, Esterhazy), Cameron Maier (third, Whitewood). Midget Girls - Renee Marchand (first, Esterhazy), Brittany Varga (second, Esterhazy), Kayley Harvey (third, YRHS).
Junior Boys - Derek Campbell (first, YRHS), Justin Arenas (second, MCS), Nathaniel Watcherson (third, Whitewood). Junior Girls - Kelsey Hackewicz (first, YRHS), Alex Flaman (second, YRHS), Rhianna Olson (third, Sturgis).
Senior Boys - Aaron Roth (first, Kipling), TJ McBride (second, YRHS), Perry Erhardt (third, Esterhazy). Senior Girls - Elizabeth Fleury (first, Tisdale), Kellie Onda-Inglis (second, YRHS).