young woman who would go on to complete her masters in
Occupational Therapy at Western following her undergraduate
degree at Laurentian would come to realize that her first
sport of choice apparently allowed her distance running
to flourish. “I had played soccer competitively
since I was very young; I guess that helped build up my
endurance,” she said.
A member of the Sudbury Canadians
for several years and long-time teammate of the likes
of current Team Canada member Cloe Lacasse, as well as
Kayla Gallo, Karolyne Blain and Serena San Cartier, Pettigrew
was effectively training for her Knights’ cross-country
and track breakthrough, long before she knew it.
“I could stay on the
field for quite a while,” she recalled. “I
did play midfield but also played striker for a while,
where it’s more about a burst of speed.”
While some health challenges
curtailed some triumphs to come in her senior years, Pettigrew
enjoyed a first season for the ages, capturing gold at
both SDSSAA and NOSSA and finishing 6th in her first shot
at the much tougher OFSAA showdown. “I didn’t
really know what to expect – I just kind of went
for it,” she reminisced.
“I’m very motivated
when I have people push me. There are so many people in
that field that are so competitive. Having people in front
of me is really good for me.”
It didn't hurt that the very
basic elements of her training might well have given her
a bit of a leg up when it came to going stride for stride
with the provincial elite. "I actually think that
running in Sudbury and training in Sudbury, both with
Track North and Lo-Ellen as well, was an advantage."
"I felt the terrain
around Laurentian was always tougher. By the time we got
to OFSAA and even sometimes NOSSA that were run on flat
ground, it was just so much easier."
And while life may not afford
her quite the same window of training opportunities as
it did in high-school, Pettigrew (Cameron) is not beyond
taking a casual jaunt. "I will still go out for a
jog or use my elliptical," she said.
"I always feel good
after a run; it just may not feel as great during."
Manitowaning native and future
OUA athlete Jeremy Cooper also migrated to the realm of
cross-country from a secondary sport – though this
one with far more direct ties to distance running. “I
first started doing triathlons as a big thing, which my
mother got me into doing,” said the now 29 year-old
who still calls Manitoulin Island his home.
“It turned out that
running was one of my stronger suits at the time. I just
ended up sticking with it.”
That is saying something
considering the training environment in which Cooper would
develop, a far different atmosphere than the glut of fellow
runners that Pettigrew enjoyed at Lo-Ellen or with Track
North Athletic Club.
“Being out in the country,
I was always running by myself,” he said. “I
wasn’t too afraid to get out and run – there’s
lots of road. But running alone, it was a challenge, a
lot of it mental, sticking to it every day. I ran with
Track North once a week and trained with them, which helped
my career a lot.”
“It was a chance to
run with a group and meet new teammates, which was really
Mind you, even in race settings,
Cooper often ran alone, especially in the north.
At the Laurentian X-C Challenge
in October of 2011, the multi gold medal winner at NOSSA
bested the field by almost two full minutes over a 6.8
kilometre course. Not all of his races would necessarily
be quite that comfortable.
“The most memorable
for me was always the (Algonquin) Barons race in North
Bay,” recalled Cooper. “It seemed that every
year, it wanted to snow – and it was one of the
roughest course that there was. Preference-wise, it was
always a golf course; nice and flat and you could get
some good times,” noted the father of one (with
a second on the way) who cracked the OUA top-ten as a
freshman with the Windsor Lancers.
“For me, it was a matter
of gradually getting faster (in a race) and then trying
to keep that fast pace. It was not necessarily about leading
it, but keeping a good pace – and if everyone else
was doing that pace, then tuck behind them and hopefully
get a really good time.”
And where some athletes might
lose sleep over those dreary weather forecasts that are
a reality of the September to November period in northern
Ontario, Cooper could not help but to rejoice.
"I usually liked it
a bit cooler - that never seemed to bother me," he
said. "Most of my best races were always in the crappiest
weather. Being a runner and training outdoors, you got
used to it - and it didn't seem to bug me as much as it
bugged some other runners."
As the local elite who excelled
this past week at the city championships make their way
to NOSSA (October 26th) and OFSAA (November 5th), memories
will be made - with many of those likely to survive the
test of time.