“The way it goes is the usually the 10th thing you imagined happening,” Julie-Anne Staehli recalls of the Nov. 12 national championships.
Her front-running tactics at the 2016 Canadian University Cross-Country Championships was one of the more talked about storylines on Saturday. The five-time All-Canadian, a Queen’s University record, was alone at the front of the women’s 6K pack for much of the race.
RELATED: Full women’s 6K recap plus video.
“It’s so not like me,” Staehli says of her early race strategy. “I’ve never gone out that like. But that was the pace appropriate for me. I was so ready and so fired up.”
— CanadianRunning (@CanadianRunning) November 12, 2016
After a fast first 300m of the race on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, the pack settled in as Staehli maintained effort and opted not to slow down. From as early as 300m, Staehli led for the following 4K with a small pack of runners in pursuit on the hilly, looped course.
With a sizeable lead entering the final loop on the course, Staehli’s teammate Claire Sumner pulled up beside her. “I kept pace for a few strides then she pulled ahead, I had little left,” she remembers. “The last 500m, I did everything I could and gave it everything I had.”
She says that she remembers most of the latter stages of the race. “My heart wanted it more than my body,” Staehli recalls. “With 300m, it was the feeling of not knowing whether I would make it to the finish line.”
That late race grit helped Queen’s finish second overall in the team standings behind the University of Guelph, which have won 12 consecutive CIS Cross-Country Championships. (The race is being rebranded next year to the U Sports Cross-Country Championships.) Staehli finished ninth overall; Sumner was the women’s individual champion.
Staehli recalls that she fell “harder than she thought” at the finish line and was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons. She says her head was throbbing though she did not expect to be taken to emergency. She had blood work done and had an IV during the four-hour hospital stay forcing her to miss the event banquet. Doctors were concerned with kidney function. Back in Kingston, Ont. on Sunday, the morning after the race, Staehli says other than a few bruises because of the fall, she is doing well.
She says that it was not exactly how she imagined her final cross-country race representing Queen’s. “It was the only outcome I didn’t visualize,” she adds.
“This was our strongest line of girls and the best team I’ve been on,” she says. “Everyone pushed so hard.” The Masters of Science student won the Canadian university cross-country title in 2013 and has been a consistent performer each year at the national championships. Being an All-Canadian, which she has done five times, entails finishing in the top-14.
— #ChaGheill (@queensgaels) November 12, 2016
With the university season having concluded Saturday, Staehli and others will be in Kingston at the end of November for the Canadian Open Cross-Country Championships. Qualifying for the IAAF World Cross-Country Championships is on her radar. She represented Canada at the 2016 Pan Am Cross-Country Cup.