Who runs this campus?

Jenny Seeman
Nelles Cup competitors in 1964

Those looking for challenging running routes around Royal Roads University campus need look no further than the Royal Roads Military College (RRMC) trails map posted outside the gym on campus. No fewer than nine routes are indicated, each with varying degrees of difficulty, length and elevation. Cadets at RRMC were organised into separate squadrons and flights and the trail routes are named, for the most part, after these divisions.

One of the trails marked, the Nelles Trail, was the route used for a gruelling 7 km cross-country race that took place annually with teams of participants from throughout the province. An entry in the college yearbook, The Log, from 1948 describes the first running of the race:

“[A]n Invitational Cross-Country meet was staged at the College to vie for the new trophy presented by Admiral Nelles. All the high schools and private schools in Greater Victoria as well as various units comprising H.M.C.S. Naden were invited to enter a team of eight runners. On the day of the meet weather conditions were none too favourable and the track was fairly heavy; nevertheless the race, shorter than the Inter-Divisional Cross Country, was run off in quite good time. Matson, of Oak Bay High School, ran well to capture the individual honours, but pouring in behind him was half the Cadet team. Scott, Leckie, Kennedy and Tarnowski took second, third, fourth and fifth places respectively. The College team was far ahead of their nearest rivals on total points and thus annexed the trophy. Admiral Nelles presented the cup to Leckie, captain of the team, at the conclusion of the meet.”

The cup would change hands many times over the years, but Royal Roads successfully held on to it until 1958 when it was won by Victoria High School. The race that year had a record number of participating teams and, despite gloomy weather, there were many cheering spectators. J. Brunett, of UBC, broke the track record with a time of 19:37 minutes, a record which was beaten in 1965 by John Cliff of the Victoria Spartans with a time of 19:35:04 minutes.

The trophy is on display in the museum and of note is that it is engraved as the ‘RCN-RCAF College Annual Invitational Cross Country’ having been created in the one year that Royal Roads was a shared naval and air force institution before becoming a tri-service military college.

The trail sign was created in 2012 through donations from the Renton family in memory of Henry Renton, a local resident who walked the trails daily. The sign captures the features of an original hand-drawn trail sign created in 1994 by S. Tourigny. Check it out next time you go for a run!

If you have any questions about the military era at Royal Roads, or have stories to share about sports activities, contact Jenny Seeman in the archives.