HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The very thought of running again, maybe even tackling another Canadian cross-country championship but in the masters category, was intriguing to Ottawa’s Magda Kubasiewicz.
But she’s too smart to let fantasy overrule reality. “I still wake up and wish I can run. I would do anything to run again,” Kubasiewicz said in a phone interview. She is scheduled to have total ankle replacement surgery in a month.
Instead of reconnecting with running and testing her competitiveness in the Canadian cross-country championships, which will be held in Ottawa for the first time in 2021 and 2022, she will reflect on her running past.
The last time the National Capital Region staged the Canadian cross-country running championships was at Hull’s Asticou Centre in 1977. Kubasiewicz remembers that Nov. 12 race for a pair of contrasting reasons.
The Nov. 14 Ottawa Citizen headline was “Cross-country runners overcome ‘atrocious’ conditions” as snow turned the ground into a muddy mess in some areas. But that was the least of Kubasiewicz’s concerns on race day.
“I almost missed the start. We were waiting and waiting. They delayed the race so we went into a change room because we were beginning to get cold. Someone came in to say they were going to start the race,” she said.
“We had to run to the start line and I gave my clothing to someone. Thirty seconds later we were off.”
An anxious start transformed into an exciting finish as she won the national women’s combined senior-junior race.
That ankle-deep mud victory was a career highlight for Kubasiewicz, then 19. It earned her a berth on the national team, an entry into the 1978 world championships in Glasgow, Scotland, and an athletic scholarship to Penn State University.
It also was a double-medal day for Kubasiewicz as her Ottawa Kinsmen Harriers’ team, which was completed by Joni Van Weerden, Liz Street and Cathy Street, placed third in the club competition and earned the bronze.
“I don’t remember a lot of the finish. To be honest, I remember more that I almost missed the start of the race,” added Kubasiewicz, who was race confident as she had previously won the Ontario championship.
Here’s an interesting Kubasiewicz fun fact. Running for Glebe Collegiate Institute, she was third in the midget girls’ 800 metres at the Ottawa high school track and field championships behind future Olympians Glenda Reiser (track and field) and Sue Holloway (cross-country skiing and kayaking). She treasures that podium photo.
When the national championships will be held in Ottawa Nov. 27, 2021 and Nov. 28, 2022 (tentative dates), the weather will be uncertain. But it’s sure to be interesting with a chance of snow in the air.
Athletics Canada made the announcement last week about staging the national championships in the nation’s capital, after speaking with the Run Ottawa organizing committee, City of Ottawa and Ottawa Tourism.
“It’s extremely exciting for nationals to come to Ottawa,” said Richard Johnston, the Ottawa Lions’ head coach and director. Depending on COVID-19 restrictions, he’s hoping for as many as 2,000 runners.
Johnston hopes to reveal the championship race venue by the end of February. The sites being considered are Mooney’s Bay and the Hornet’s Nest in Gloucester, the traditional sites for high school championships, and Wesley Clover Parks.
What will the weather be like in late November for the runners? He said it could be the same as it was in Hull in 1977 or it could be sunny and snow free as it was that weekend two months ago in Ottawa.
“It (winter-like weather) is not something new for cross-country athletes. Fort Henry Hill (Kingston) was exposed to Lake Ontario and winter conditions can be harsh. When Guelph played host, the temperature was minus 7C and it was minus 14C with the wind chill. And they had a groomer pack the snow.
“Cross-country runners should be ready to go and be willing to brave the elements.”