West Kelowna nursing student Vernonika Fagan is a Canadian national champion after running to first place in the 2017 CCAA Cross-Country Running Championships on the weekend in Sainte-Therese, Quebec.
Running for the UBC OKanagan Heat, Fagan crossed the line 14 seconds ahead of the second place finisher in the six-kilometre race on Saturday, capitalizing on a strong start as she set the pace with a wire-to-wire win. The victory also means she receives all Canadian status in the CCAA.
“Coming into the home stretch was a bizarre feeling because I have never won a big race like this before in my life,” said Fagan. “I felt like I chose the right university with the most amazing coaches, team and family supporting me through each race. I feel very fortunate for how my past three years have played out at UBCO.”
A local racer was second and on Fagan’s heels for the entire race until she dropped the Quebec runner in the final kilometre.
“Obviously I was nervous but I was also excited,” said Fagan. “The pacer on the bike was cheering for the girl I was running against the whole time along with basically everyone else because it was her home town. It didn’t seem to psych me out at all. I could also hear the encouraging words of everyone cheering for me.”
With the gold medal run and other strong performances, the Heat women’s cross country team finished with a national bronze medal.
The next finisher for the UBCO women’s team was Camille Galloway, a nursing student and former varsity soccer player who finished 12th amongst the field of 130 runners. Julianna Neudorf and Alex Beswick were the other two scoring racers for the Heat finishing just nine seconds apart in 25th and 30th respectively.
The two displacers for UBC Okanagan were Josie Storey and Rachel Garrett. Storey finished at 24:24 in 44th place while Garrett was the 78th runner across the line at a time of 25:21.
“Everyone finished strongly with a positive mindset,” said Fagan. “I am very happy with the results from each and every one of the ladies this season. We came to ntionals with a few variables but everyone pulled through and as a result we got a bronze medal.”
Meanwhile, Michael Mitchell led the UBC Okanagan men’s team to a 10th place finish, two spots better than last year’s national championship. Mitchell finished just outside of All-Canadian status, the Kimberly, BC resident was 13th out of the 134 athletes lined up at the start.
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