When former U Sports All-Canadian Colleen Wilson ran her last cross-country race with the Dalhousie Tigers in 2016, coach Rich Lehman wondered if, in a few years, one of his younger runners would fill the void she had left. He had not planned, however, to land one of the top recruits in the country: Savanna Jordan.
The 2016 national youth cross-country champion from Calgary had elected to study kinesiology, and take her talents to Dalhousie in Halifax. A few months later, she stepped comfortably into Wilson’s former role as the Tigers’ leading runner, and has been dominating in her races ever since. This year’s Atlantic University Sport (AUS) cross-country champion and rookie of the year is now on her way to Victoria, looking to gain valuable U Sports experience while mixing it up with competitors many years her senior. The national university cross-country championships go off on Nov. 12.
Alex Cyr: How has your training been going over the last few weeks?
Savanna Jordan: Training has been going pretty well. It’s a new place, but I love it. There are a lot of new things to see and do around here. I have really good training partners, and we make a great group. On top of this, the coaches are really supportive, and we have great trainers and physiotherapists. Our entire team at Dalhousie makes training hard a lot easier.
AC: You’re the youngest person featured as a contender for the U Sports Championships; you are only months out of high school. How was the transition to varsity running?
SJ: Time management is different. Obviously, school is taken more seriously. The stress that comes with competition is a bit greater now, so it makes me take it more seriously as well. The volume increase is fine, because we tend to run slower and less intensely than I would have at home, on easy days. It helps to slow it down, because the racing distance has gone from 4K in high school to 8K in university. I have to be able to handle more volume, so that’s a bit of a change this year.
— AUS_SUA (@AUS_SUA) October 28, 2017
AC: Though you are a rookie, you’re expected to lead a more senior team of Dalhousie women to a strong placing. Do you feel any pressure coming with that role?
SJ: Not at all. We have amazing leaders on our team. I feel like I will have a lot to live up to when the captains and senior runners are gone… they are paving the pathway for me. They are so supportive. They make it easy for me to just focus on learning the ropes this year. Watching our seniors lead and learning from them will make it so much easier for me when eventually I will be expected to step up.
— Trevor J. Adams (@HalifaxEditor) October 31, 2017
AC: You seem to be particularly fond of the dirt and the hills. Last cross-country season, you took home the youth girls’ national title in Kingston, Ont. in November. What is it about XC that seems to bring out your best running?
SJ: The view. You’re not running around in circles, like on the track. Plus, I love the feel of it. Cross-country practices are different from track ones. I love it so much. Everyone is suffering, but everyone understands.
Have you set any individual or team goals for the weekend?
SJ: I think this weekend is very much a learning experience for me, being a first year. Our team goal is just to place as high as possible and work as best we can as a team. Every place counts. We heard the course is flatter than what we’re used to, so a goal for us is to take advantage of that.
Getting to know Savanna
PBs: 1,500m: 4:26.91, 5,000m: 17:09.86
Social media: Instagram – @savannajordan
Men do facial hair in cross-country, do you have any rituals? We will be wearing tattoos on our face, and ribbons in our hair. Dalhousie colours!
Cross-country spikes of choice: New Balance XC 700
Pre-race meal: Peanut butter and banana on toast, or oatmeal.
Professional runner: Jordan Hasay, Genevieve LaCaze and Shalane Flanagan
Pump up song: I don’t usually listen to music. It stresses me out on a race day!
Hard with hills, or fast and flat? I like it in between. Too many hills makes it hard to gain a rhythm, but all flat makes it boring. I like it moderately tough.
Who are you looking forward to see at the U Sports Championships? My family, my coach, and my teammates from home.
— Dal Tigers (@DalTigers) November 1, 2017
Alex Cyr is a St. FX alumnus and a runner for the Windsor Lancers who writes when he can’t run, and runs when he can’t write.