Trapped in Chilliwack by flooding-caused road closures, Christina Peet-Williams hitched a ride in a small West Coast Pilot Club airplane on her way to cross country nationals in Ottawa. (submitted photo)

Trapped in Chilliwack by flooding-caused road closures, Christina Peet-Williams hitched a ride in a small West Coast Pilot Club airplane on her way to cross country nationals in Ottawa. (submitted photo)

Chilliwack cross country runner flies over flooding on way to nationals

Christina Peet-Williams was trapped and disappointed, and then the West Coast Pilot Club stepped up

Months of relentless training paid off for Chilliwack teenager Christina Peet-Williams, who finished fourth at last weekend’s Canadian Cross Country U18 Girls Championship.

The race was exciting, with Peet-Williams finishing a mere 39 seconds out of top spot.

She covered four kilometres in 15 minutes and 10 seconds, and was happy with her performance on the national stage.

But this story is more about what she did to cover 3,458.55 clicks from Chilliwack to Ottawa, Ont.

After placing second at the U18 BC High School Cross Country Provincials on Nov. 6, and finishing third at BC Athletics (club) Provincials on Oct. 23, the 17-year-old was ecstatic, ready to represent British Columbia and take on Canada’s top runners.

RELATED: Chilliwack rainfall total for November hit ‘all-time high’ of 615 mm

BC Athletics was footing the bill for her flight to Ottawa and she felt she was in top form.

She was due to depart Nov. 25, but when the only open road out of Chilliwack (Highway 7) closed Nov. 23, she was crushed.

“I was pretty disappointed because all season I had trained really hard and prepared myself to get to this meet and I was really excited to go,” she said. “I did have to reflect on what happened and appreciate what I did still have, because there were a lot of people who were more negatively affected by the flood, but overall I was disappointed.”

Enter Shaun Kumar and the West Coast Pilot Club. When flooding began the previous week, the Langley-based group of airplane pilots stepped up to help. They started flying to and from Chilliwack, bringing in supplies and transporting out those who were trapped.

Peet-Williams’ father reached out to the club at the 11th hour, and within hours she was seated in a small prop-plane piloted by Kumar, flying over the flooded fields of the eastern Fraser Valley.

RELATED: Chilliwack-based pet food company sends 1000s of pet meals to flood-ravaged cities

“It was very, very last minute, and I’m really appreciate of the West Coast Pilot Club for what they were able to do,” the teenager said. “I felt really fortunate and lucky that these people were able to help me out even though they were very busy shuttling food and supplies for people who were stranded. After being so disappointed that I might not be able to go, to get that chance was really rewarding.”

Peet-Williams’ one previous flying experience came on a commercial jet liner, not a little airplane.

“To see the prairie was really incredible, but it was devastating too see all the drowned-out farmhouses and think of all the animals that passed away because of it,” she said. “It was really cool to be up there, but it was a surreal feeling. It’s one thing to see pictures and another to see it with your own eyes.”

Peet-Williams said she’ll be forever thankful to Kumar and the West Coast Flying Club.

“They gave up their time, energy, and resources to get me to where I needed to go,” she said. “Even amongst flying food and resources to stranded communities, they were able to help me out without hesitation and that makes me very thankful.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help fund the West Coast Flying Club’s volunteer activities, and it can be found online at gofundme.com/f/volunteer-pilots-flood-emergency-relief

As of Thursday morning (Dec. 2), a total of $5,145 had been raised towards a goal of $15,000.


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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