George Brown's women's cross country team did the school and the province proud on Saturday, with a 12th place finish at the 2017 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) National Championships.
"They did fantastic," Huskies head coach Nelson Njeru said after the race. "They pulled through their injuries, they didn't think about it, they put in all the effort they had. We're proud of them, and we can say they did their best."
Hosted by Collège Lionel-Groulx on a crisp and bright day in Blainville, Quebec, George Brown's team performance on the twisty-turny, mixed-terrain 6K course ranked third among Ontario schools participating.
As they have been throughout the season, George Brown was paced by first-year Husky, Jenna Freeman. The Orillia native capped off her phenomenal year with a time of 23:02.3, good for 14th in the nation.
Freeman's top 15 feat was especially impressive considering she climbed five positions in the final two kilometres against stiff competition.
"I feel like it was my best race that I've run so far, just mentally and staying on it the whole time," she said. "The second loop, I was trying to pick off and catch as many people as I could."
Katie Holman, who placed 30th with a time of 23:51.5, described the level of competition as "unreal" and commended the performances of the race's top runners. Exposure to the highest level shows what it takes to win against the best, and both Saturday and the season as a whole provided key experience for George Brown's cross country program moving forward.
"This year was really good, because we got a lot of experience at a high level," Freeman said. "These races, it all comes down to experience, knowing where you fit in and being confident that you can stay with the group that you're with."
Joining Freeman and Holman on the national stage were fellow provincial bronze medallists Marisa Lazo (98th, 26:08.2), Angelee Weathers (101st, 26:09.8) and Loreto Gajardo (118th, 27:29.7).
In his first year at the helm, Huskies head coach Nelson Njeru has brought his steadying presence to the team, and begun to put his personal stamp on the program. A coach with long-term vision, one whose training program is focused on the big picture and peaking at the right time, the accomplished George Brown alumnus is already thinking about tweaks in where training will focus more for next season.
By building on this year's foundation, and with Njeru's training from the very beginning, George Brown is primed to take the next step in 2018, a sentiment echoed by both Freeman and Holman.
"I would say make sure you go to all the practices and go in super committed," Holman urged next year's runners. "I think that the training George Brown has is really good if you stick to it and put your all in."
George Brown College's individual results:
- Jenna Freeman (14th, 23:02.3)
- Katie Holman (30th, 23:51.5)
- Marisa Lazo (98th, 26:08.2)
- Angelee Weathers (101st, 26:09.8)
- Loreto Gajardo (118th, 27:29.7)
For complete results from the 2017 CCAA National Championships, click here.