The Prairie Inn Harriers Running Club recaptured the Vancouver Island Runners’ Association (VIRA) Cup from the 2022 winning Ceevacs Road Runners of the Cowichan Valley. It was the 30th win since records have been kept starting in 1985.
While the Harriers battled hard against the upstart Speedfarm club for the new Island Series Cup throughout the 2023 eight-race season, it was the powerful and growing Speedfarm who prevailed at the 11th hour during the Synergy Health Centre Bazan Bay 5K.
However, the Harriers also had their eyes on the VIRA Cup. The team had strong representation at the Sidney waterfront race and in so doing firmly cemented their victory in the VIRA Cup race. Ceevacs battled hard and finished second. Run to Beer Comox Valley finished third.
A few Prairie Inn Harriers at Cedar Hill Rec Centre, celebrating the win
The final point standings were 3209 to 2802, respectively. Run to Beer collected 1724. Seven teams earned at least 1000 points during the series. Capital City Run Crew (4th), Comox Valley Road Runners (5th), Speedfarm (6th) and Saltspring Sneakers earned 1028 points for seventh position.
It was at the club’s own race, the Harriers Pioneer 8K and the TWC-hosted Bazan Bay 5K where the Harriers gained the most points with 582 and 552, respectively — bookending the season tidily. Ceevacs’ big performances happened at their run, the Cobble Hill 10K, with its superfast new route where they collected 433 points. In the next event, the Cedar 12K the team in yellow collected 380 points for their two best showings. Consistency was key with 300 points or more earned in every race except the Pioneer 8K where they earned 299 — close enough!
Although some teams were not really clubs or teams, a total of 114 are indicated in the results — the biggest year in the series’ history.
The Prairie Inn Harriers have been a BC Athletics-associated and registered athletics club since 1978. BC Athletics is the provincial authority of the sport under the national governing body, Athletics Canada. The Harriers also have the Prairie Inn Harriers Racing Team and the Prairie Inn Harriers Youth Team.
Each time the Harriers were unseated, the club bounced back the following year to win again, except where the Ceevacs won twice in a row in 2020 and 2022. There was no series championship in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, each time that a club moved up in the standings to second place, they would then unseat the Harriers, the following year. Bastion Run Club in 1996 won, after finishing second in 1995. Team West Coast won in 2002 after finishing second in 2001. Comox Valley Road Runners did the deed in 2015 and 2016, as did Ceevacs in 2018, then again in 2020.
Frontrunners Westshore, which became Frontrunners Athletic Club emerged as a contender in 2009 and 2010, taking second in both years.
The trophy (shown in both pictures) was donated to VIRA from the Victoria International Cross Country Association (VICCA), which held the Pan Am Cross Country Cup at Bear Mountain in 2020.