By Charlie Pinkerton
Finishing a step off the podium at OFSAA Nordic, it was a bittersweet return to the provincial high school championships for one of Ottawa’s top graduating athletes after she battled an injury for more than a year.
Glebe Collegiate’s Mei Mei Weston suffered a hip flexor stress fracture during the 2016 cross-country season. She was the reigning Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations cross-country champion of her age group, having won the junior girls division in 2015. It took her six months to recover from the injury. She looked poised to make another run at OFSAA gold throughout the cross-country season earlier this school year, dominating at the city high school championships by winning the 6 km senior girls race by more than 10 seconds. But signs of her stress fracture crept back as she ramped up her mileage throughout the season.
“I was having a lot of pain in my hip again while I was running,” she said.
She travelled to fall’s OFSAA meet in Petawawa with Glebe’s team but came to an agreement with coach Kirk Dillabaugh not to race and avoid risking worsening the injury, and to instead wait it out and see if she would be able to run at the national championships. She didn’t run at that meet either.
After suffering the injury originally, she cross-trained by swimming, water-running, and using an elliptical. This winter season she decided to test how her hip flexor would hold up when she cross-country skied.
“I wanted to be a part of the team. I did it in Grade 10 and I loved it,” she said.
The sport was originally introduced to her by friends, including Glebe Collegiate Nordic teammate Anna Pazdzior.
“We would try to go every weekend to keep up our training, because we don’t ski with the club, so we drive up ourselves,” Pazdzior said. “I was a bit worried at first that she might find it hard to get into but she’s really fit from track and the other sports that she does and she’s a great person to ski with.”
It became a weekend tradition for the two, and others, to cross-country ski in Gatineau Park.
“It became my major thing over the winter. It was a really good substitute (for running) and it’s been really, really fun,” Weston said.
On a sunny and slippery race day at OFSAA in Sudbury on Feb. 22, Weston finished 4th amongst senior girls in the high school division. The division was new this year, to separate skiers who only race with their school team and not as part of a competitive club.
“I went as hard as I could. I left everything on the course,” Weston said.
“I think 4th is the worst position that anyone can ever get,” she added with a laugh. “It’s so disappointing, so I was definitely a little bit upset at the end, but that’s life. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd had really great races and they deserved it.”
Pazdzior finished one spot ahead of her amongst high school division racers to win the bronze medal.
Weston said that she’s only now getting back into running.
“It’s a really lengthy process,” Weston said. “I’ve made my mistakes now, so it won’t happen again.”
She’ll be attending Harvard University next year, where she plans to race as a member of the cross-country running team.
Brothers Tyler Allan and Luke Allan of Ashbury College won the senior and junior boys OFSAA Nordic divisions, with the younger Allan tying for first place in a race timed to the tenth of a second. Sir Robert Borden’s Devon Pegrum placed 3rd in the senior boys race.
Katie Macintosh of Glebe won 1st in the junior girls race while her senior teammate Taegan Shapansky won silver. Katya Semeniuk of St. Pius X High School won silver in the junior girls race.
Glebe’s senior girls, junior girls and junior boys won silver medals.
In the relay, Glebe’s junior girls and boys both came in 2nd place. Their senior girls won bronze, as did Nepean High School’s senior boys team.