By Dan Plouffe
A dozen years in soccer – including many playing at the highest provincial level – served as an excellent launching pad for Elizabeth Vroom’s new athletic pursuit of steeplechase, where she’s quickly become a champion many times over.
Of course, there was all the running and fitness training that helped her build the endurance required to race many laps around the track, she outlines.
And she was used to leaping airborne to contest headers as a soccer defender.
Now how about jumping over an enormous hurdle and landing in a pool of water?
“It’s not quite the same,” smiles Vroom, who wiped out and took a dip in the water pit in her first-ever steeplechase race earlier this year.
The recent Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School graduate and senior female athlete of the year began playing soccer at age 5, and come the under-13 level, she’d won a groundbreaking Ontario Cup title with her Cumberland United Cobras.
“That was really awesome,” recalls Vroom. “It was a lot of fun to go to Toronto like every weekend as a team and make our way up through the tournament. It was such a great experience.”
Vroom moved on to join the Ottawa South United Force for the chance to play in the Ontario Provincial Development League, which included a heavy commitment of four practices a week plus weekend games, mostly in the GTA.
She enjoyed an exceptional U17 season with OSU last summer, losing just twice in their 15-game schedule, but her old club (now called Ottawa TFC, and first-time entrants in the OPDL) was even better and won the championship with an undefeated record (14 wins and 1 tie).
Track has now become Vroom’s primary pursuit, though she’s still playing high-level soccer back in her end of town with Ottawa TFC, reuniting with some of her past champion teammates for play in the Ottawa Carleton Soccer League.
Her usual schedule now includes track practice Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“I go from one thing to the other, and when I do have a break, I make sure to take the opportunity to rest, recharge, and then go again,” highlights Vroom, adding that her parents’ support has been critical to her success.
Finding her footing on track
Vroom wonders if she might have shifted her focus to track-and-field earlier if not for COVID-19. She’d run distance hurdles for the Sir Wil Lancers in Grade 9, but her Grade 10 and 11 high school seasons were wiped out by the pandemic.
Vroom raced high school cross-country this past fall to help boost her fitness for soccer, but when she wound up winning the national capital silver medal, it helped her realize she may have greater potential in running.
Now a member of the Ottawa Lions community track club, Vroom says she enjoys the competitive nature of both her sports, though there are differences.
“(In track), everyone gets to race. In soccer, some people might be sitting on the bench or not getting to play and then that creates more competitiveness within the team,” she explains. “At the Lions, it’s a really good environment where everyone’s friends. We get along really well.”
Vroom had initially planned to attend Dalhousie University to play soccer, but she instead elected to study engineering at Queen’s University while running track and cross-country with the Gaels.
“I had been thinking about playing soccer, but I feel like there’s just more opportunities for me in track,” indicates the student who graduated with a 95% average. “I started in track, I’ve had success, and I’m really enjoying it.”
Vroom has won every championship race she’s entered in steeplechase, starting with the high school east conference, city, regional and OFSAA provincials, and culminating with a U20 national title at the late-June Canadian track and field championships in Langley, B.C.
“I’m really happy with what I’ve been able to do,” underlines the 2004-born athlete. “I’m so glad I got into (track-and-field). Now I love it so much.”
Piles of Ottawa Lions move on to university ranks
When Vroom attends university track meets, she’ll be sure see many familiar faces from the local running scene. Numerous fellow Ottawa Lions who graduated from high school this year will join her at the university level, including:
Emily Brennan – Denison (Ohio)
Millie Cameron – York
Audrey Goddard – Western
Thomas Kukla-Colby – Ottawa
Jack Link – USA
Cora McQuinn – Western
Grace Munro – Guelph
Charlotte Murchison – York
Luca Nicoletti – McGill
Gigi Porter – Queen’s
Kyle Porter – UBC Okanagan
Sam Sharp – Western
Zach Sikka – Ottawa
Leo Wallner – Western
Howie Wu – Queen’s
Read More in our 2022 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our caps to top local student-athletes at:
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