Cross-country champ not one to run from a challenge

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Cadence Christie never runs from a challenge.

The Grade 12 student-athlete at St. Mary’s Academy tried to beat her dad, Craig, and her older brother, Nikolaas, in friendly races at home, and tried outpacing the boys at elementary-school events. In Grade 10, she won the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association (MHSAA) varsity girls cross-country championship, an impressive feat considering she shared the course with older runners.

Earlier this week, Christie’s competitive spirit propelled her to victory once again — at this year’s MHSAA cross-country championships at Spruce Woods Provincial Park.

While Christie made winning a second career varsity girls title look easy (a time of 13 minutes, 20 seconds in the 4,000-metre event) her route to the finish line came with some obstacles.

“It feels amazing. I won (it) in Grade 10 in 2019 and so I just wanted to try and do that again this year,” Christie said Friday. “It was a much harder course, and it was also months later (than usual). It definitely took a toll, coming right off from indoor (track) and doing short distance, and then trying to run long distance again.”

The cross-country championships are usually held in November of the school year.

Hills on the course aside, Christie dealt with a pair of injuries in the months leading up to the event. She said a hip issue sidelined her in mid-January, while a foot problem kept her out in March.

Despite the layoff, the high school senior said doing things like aqua-jogging, strength training, biking and stretching helped her quickly return to form.

St. Mary’s cross-country coach Demetro Danyluk wasn’t surprised by Christie’s ability to battle through injuries and return to form following a missed 2020-21 season owing to the pandemic.

“She’s so intelligent, since Grade 7 really,” said Danyluk. “She’s so technically sound that you knew she was going to continue to succeed.”

He remembered Christie’s days as a young gun in junior high, running with the varsity athletes, and chuckled when recounting a time when a group of older runners noticed Christie’s talent.

“She would be running with our Grade 12s… and all them saying, ‘Can you believe her?’” he said. “They’re all like, ‘Mr. Danyluk, she’s amazing.’”

Christie said training with older girls taught her the important lesson of learning how to lose. In elementary school, she never had anyone to push her, but that quickly changed at St. Mary’s.

“I think it’s important to know how to lose. If you just always win, you don’t know how to lose,” she said. “It just makes winning so much better… after all the hard work that you put in.”

Danyluk praised Christie’s maturity, noting she’s well-liked and a great team player.

She helped him coach the school’s junior cross-country team in her spare time, and also played hockey and soccer while maintaining her studies.

“Even if I never coached her and she was just a student at the school, we probably would be doing an interview about something else,” Danyluk said proudly.

Christie said she’s taken a disciplined approach to life, finding the balance between school and sports. It’s an important time of year as dreaded exam season approaches.

“As long as you love what you’re doing, I think it’s easy to make everything work,” she said.

While many high-school athletes reach the end of their careers after graduation, Christie’s trek is far from over — she has earned a spot on an NCAA Division 1 college track team, although she will redshirt the first year.

She is set to begin the pharmaceutical science program at the University of Toledo this fall.

Until then, she’s looking forward to a few more races and graduation.

“I’m definitely just trying to soak it in,” she said. “These meets are just to have as much fun as possible.”

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Twitter: @Gavin77axe