Cool but sunny temperatures greeted the Pan Am athletes at Bear Mountain Resort Langford Saturday for the 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup. It was a full day of racing with a community race, youth races and the Can Am Masters Challenge.

The U20 women was the first of the Pan Am races with 30 runners from Canada, USA, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Panama and Colombia. The 6km course was won by Brooke Rauber from the USA in 23:12, Canada’s top junior Sadie Sigfstead was second in 23:23 and third was Peru’s Jhenifer Melchor in 23:46.

U20 female race. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

The U20 men’s field had 32 runners running 8k (4 x two km laps). From the start it was a tight lead pack with Corey Georges and Evan Bishop from the USA and Alejandro Alania from Peru jostling for the lead. During the second lap the lead kept changing with Mexico’s Cesar Daniel Gomez Ponce taking second place. In the final lap Georges pulled away to win in 27:15, Bishop was second (27:20) and Alania third in 27:27.

U20 men’s start. Photo credit Joseph Camilleri

Georges ran a tactical race. “I tried to play it smart as I knew there were four laps, so I held back and made a move in the last two kilometres,” he said. “It is an amazing experience running here and an honour to run for my country.”

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. She hit the tape in 37:37. Verdon was second in 38:09 and Valdivia was third in 38:12. Wodak came fourth in 38:24.

Senior women on the course. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

Lalonde, who now lives in Victoria, was bubbling with delight at her victory. “I wasn’t planning on taking the lead so early but kept it smooth and the gap kept growing,” she said. “There were such great crowds today particularly on the hills and they raised the momentum.” She found the course hard: “It was particularly challenging on the back end with the twists and turns but it wasn’t as hard as the Worlds last year in Aarhus, but it was tough for sure.”

Women’s podium. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

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 and in the second lap Daniel Ferreira DoNascim made a challenge. It was a tactical move with teammate Johnatas De Oliveira Cruz also moving ahead. By the fourth lap Americans Dillon Maggard and David Goodman were in contention. On the last lap Rotich and De Oliveira Cruz were 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. Paul Ramirez from Peru was third in 33:11. Top Canadian was Connor Black finishing fifth in 33:25.

Senior men running through the sand pit. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

De Oliveira Cruz explained afterwards it was all teamwork. “We ran as a team until the third lap and I had to decide do I stay with Daniel or pull away. So I decided to push harder.” The team prior to the race studied the course and ran on similar terrain at home to simulate the course. The 29-year-old ran the World Cross Country Championships at Aarhus, Denmark last year. “That was a tipping point for me – I decided to train hard for this event,” he said.

The men’s photo finish. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

The day also saw exciting action in the other races. 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. Graham Cocksedge from the University of Victoria Track Club had a commanding lead in the 5K with Mark Cryderman from Campbell River, Vancouver Island, closing in over the last lap. Cocksedge was able to keep the lead to finish in 18:24 with Cryderman a few seconds behind in 18:32. Third was Brian Torrance in 18:42.

Canada – winners of the Can Am Challenge. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

Jen Millar led from the start of the women’s race. The road race runner from Victoria is transitioning to trail and enjoyed the course. “Such a beautiful course with the tough up hills and fast downhills – you couldn’t catch your breath.” Millar hit the tape in 20:34 with Lauren King second in 21:29 Andrea Smith third in 21:47.

PNW youth race. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

The Pacific Northwest Youth Cup featured the best high school runners in the region. The boy’s race was won by Victoria’s Jonah Brost in 18:13 with Joseph Curtis from Coquitlam, second in 18:17 and third was Jaiveer Tiwana from Surrey in 18:30. Ella Madsen from Coquitlam won the girls race in 19:23, second was Christina Peet Williams (Team Dogwood) in 19:48 and third was Ella Ballard (Victoria) in 19:56. The boy’s division was won by Victoria and the girl’s by Vancouver with Surrey winning the overall championship.

The day kicked off with the Community Race over 5K. Over 40 runners from BC clubs lined up to test the course ahead of the main races. Ian Searle from the Prairie Inn Harriers led the pack until Jonathan Behnke passed him with one kilometre to go to take the tape in 18:06. Searle came second in 18:29 and Matthew Galea from U of C Athletics Club was third in 19:14.

Community race start. Photo by Yan Lyesin

Behnke, from the Vancouver Falcons, recently won the Cedar 12K and is gearing up over the next few months for the cross country season in the fall. Asked about his prep for the race he said he did look at the map and ran some of it the day before. “I had no idea of the field, so I started fast and waited to see who came with me.”

The women’s race was won by Vancouver’s Ally Ginther in 20:51, second was Sarah Brian (Prairie Inn Harriers) in 23:59 and third was Stephanie Croft in 27:04.
The VIRA Cup for the top team was won by the Prairie Inn Harriers.

The Nations Cup. Photo by Joseph Camilleri

The Nations Cup saw over 175 kids from 22 schools run a 1.6km loop. Students from grades K – 2, 3 – 5 and 6 – 8 started in waves with each school having been designated a Pan Am country running in the country’s team colours.

“After almost a year and a half of planning and preparing, the races came together perfectly,” says Bruce Deacon, the event General Manager. “We again showed the world that the Victoria running community is second to none in putting on world class events.”

In the Pan Am team results Canada won the U20 Female and Senior Female categories. The USA won the U20 Male and Senior Male. Overall the USA was first with Canada second and Peru third.
The Pan Am Cup is in conjunction with the NACAC (North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association) Cross Country Championships. The inaugural event was in 2005 and held in Florida. In 2015 the Pan Am Cross Country Cup was added to the event. In the NACAC Championships on Saturday Canada won the U20 Female and Senior Female titles and USA the U20 Male and Senior Male titles.


Lynn Kanuka (middle), Pan Am Athlete Services with athletes at the media conference

Bear Mountain Resort is gearing up for some exciting competition on Saturday when 117 athletes from 12 countries will take on a challenging course for the Pan Am Cross Country Cup.  The annual race is in conjunction with the NACAC Cross Country Championships. The participating countries are Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guadeloupe, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, and the United States.

Teams will compete in four races – two U20 and two senior races, male and female. The U20 men’s race will be over an 8km distance, and the women athletes will run 6km. Both the senior men and women will run 10km.

Canada and the USA are fielding the largest teams each with 24 athletes competing.

For Canada Geneviève Lalonde, Natasha Wodak, and Maria Bernard-Galea lead the senior women’s team and John Gay, Connor Black and Jean-Simon Desgagnes are on the senior men’s side. Lalonde is the two-time defending Canadian Cross Country Champion and Wodak set a new 10K Pan Ams Games record at the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru last year. Gay and Black qualified for the 2020 Pan Am XC Cup by having strong performances at the 2019 Cross Country Championships.

“We are very excited to be competing on home turf and in a such a high performance sport environment like Greater Victoria,” says Hilary Stellingwerff, coach of the Pan Am Canadian team. We have very strong teams in all the categories, with our top athletes racing and contending for medals, individually and as teams.”

On Team USA is Grace Graham Zamudio who has a 10K track best of 33:46.98 and Sarah Pease who was 4th at the 2020 USATF XC Championships in 36:39. The men’s side is led by Anthony Rotich who won the USATF XC Championships in January, and Dillon Maggard and Nick Hauger who finished 4th and 5th respectively. Both Canada and USA also have a strong U20 field.

Peru are sending 18 runners, Mexico, 15, and Brazil and Puerto Rico, 12 each. Trinidad and Tobago will have five athletes, Bahamas, four; Columbia, three; Costa Rica, Guadeloupe, and Panama two each, and one athlete from El Salvador.

Mexico has always been one of the stronger teams in the competition’s history and this year they have two athletes that ran in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.  Arian Iveth Chia Hernandez and Cesar Gomez, both 18 years old are National record holders in the 2km Steeplechase.

In addition to the Pan Am XC Cup there are a series of races that will be run on the same course.

Exciting action will be seen in the Can Am Masters Challenge – where Canada and the USA will vie for the Farquharson-Glavin Cup over 5km. “Anyone over 30 can run the race and count in the scoring against the US. For the average runner there are few opportunities to race for your country,” says General Manager, Bruce Deacon. The race will see multiple age class winner 79-year-old Herb Phillips competing as well as Mark Cryderman who recently won the masters title at the Cedar 12K in Nanaimo.

The Can Am Masters Cross Country Challenge was established in 1977 by Canadian Don Farquharson. “This dual meet was held every year from 1977 to 2007, except in 2000 – the year Don Farquharson passed away,” added Deacon. Canada leads the challenge series over the USA 18 – 14 and is undefeated on Canadian soil.

The Pacific Northwest Youth Cup has over 70 participants from clubs in British Columbia. Top podium contender will be Jaiveer Tiwana from Coastal Track Club in Surrey, the U18 Canadian Cross Country champion, and for the women, Victoria’s Delaney Chan, who placed 10th in the Canadian Nationals.

The Nations Cup will see 175 kids from 22 schools run a 1.6km loop. Students from grades K – 2, 3 – 5 and 6 – 8 will start in waves. Each school has been designated a Pan Am country and will run in the country’s team colours. Kicking off the races will be the 5km Community Race comprising three loops (1k, 2k, 2k) of the course.

“The Victoria organizing committee has done an incredible job putting together a program that integrates the community, youth and top athletes. This will be an amazing opportunity for spectators to cheer on Canada’s best, as well as aspiring runners in the community at this beautiful venue in Bear Mountain,” commented Stellingwerff.

The main races from 10 am until 1:30 pm will be Live Streamed on CBC – there is a link on the Pan Am website:

or go directly to:


For Information on teams and athletes in the 2020 Pan Ams Cross Country Cup: