Hilary Stellingwerff has been named a coach for the upcoming Pan Am Cross-Country Cup in Victoria in 10 days’ time. The 10-time national team member, who’s also a two-time Olympian, is the head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes but this is her first time coaching a national team.
Stellingwerff is excited to work with this strong group of athletes and to coach a team competing on home soil. “It’s exciting because we have a really talented group of athletes. It reminds me of 2017 when we hosted the U Sports national cross-country championships with the Vikes. I want the team to be excited about that and to take this opportunity really seriously. A chance to compete in a championship at home doesn’t come up very often.”
Stellingwerff has been coaching since 2013 part-time (while she was still competing) and full-time since 2016. “The coaching I did from 2013 to 2016 was mostly with schools in Europe while my husband [Trent] and I lived there. And then when we moved to Victoria I took the job with the Vikes.”
Her biggest takeaway after seven years of coaching has been the importance of understanding the different levels of athletes. “You have to look at the progression of a runner’s career from junior, to varsity, to elite. Those are all very different stages. Being a student athlete is very different than being an elite athlete, and you can’t rush that development. We’re looking at a long-term path to becoming an elite and trying to help runners enjoy every phase along the way.”
Stellingwerff says she was fortunate enough to always enjoy running, during and after her professional career, and she wants to help her athletes feel the same way. “I’ve always loved the sport and I think that it’s important to balance training so that my runners can too. There’s a time to be serious but there’s also a time to have fun. Through training camps and team socials we are building a relationship with our athletes. They need to know I’m more than a person holding a stop watch.”
The Pan Am Cross-Country Cup will run on February 29 at Bear Mountain Resort.