Athletics High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Roar like a Lion first for Amelia Van Brabant, then fly like an Eagle

Visit the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Facebook page for a photo gallery of this race

See our 2022 NCSSAA XC Championships webpage for more coverage, including race-by-race recaps and photo galleries, in the lead-up to the OFSAA provincials on Nov. 5.

By Martin Cleary

A Lion is about to become an Eagle.

This is not a magic trick.

The reality is Earl of March Secondary School Lions’ Amelia Van Brabant has verbally committed to accept a full athletic scholarship to Boston College to study environmental geo-sciences and run cross-country and track for the Eagles.

But before the talented Grade 12 student-athlete puts her signature on a letter of intent to the Chestnut Hills, Massachusetts university on Nov. 10, Van Brabant hopes to sign off on her high school running career in a positive way.

She will compete in the OFSAA provincial high school cross-country running championships Saturday at the Dagmar Ski Resort in Uxbridge. It will be her second career OFSAA cross-country running championship, after she placed 81st in her debut in the girls’ novice division in 2019.

The OFSAA championships weren’t staged in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association didn’t send runners to OFSAA in 2021 because the four school boards didn’t want student-athletes and teacher-coaches travelling out of town for health and safety reasons related to the pandemic.

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But Van Brabant, who has developed into an elite, age-group runner in the past three years, is ready to confront and challenge about 280 runners in the girls’ senior race in her final OFSAA cross-country championship.

She qualified to race at OFSAA by winning the senior 6,000-metre race during last week’s NCSSAA championships at Mooney’s Bay by almost five seconds in a time of 22 minutes, 17.33 seconds.

Gloucester’s Olivia Baggley pushed hard throughout the race and finished second in 22:22.26, while Glebe’s Lauren Alexander took third in 22:32.10.

Amelia Van Brabant won the girls’ senior race by just under 5 seconds at the national capital high school cross-country running championships on Oct. 27 at Mooney’s Bay. Photo: Dan Plouffe

When Van Brabant attends Boston College, she’ll be wearing the school colours of maroon and gold. At the moment, she is more familiar with the Earl of March colours of yellow and green.

At the NCSSAA championships, she was truly colourful as she was decked out in her green and yellow Earl of March running gear, wore pink and blue elastic therapeutic support tape on her left knee and leg and captured the gold medal. And you can’t forget the sparkling green and yellow paint lines under her eyes.

“I was a little relieved because there was a lot of young talent out there,” said Van Brabant, who captured her first NCSSAA girls’ senior title in 2021, but didn’t race at OFSAA. “I wanted to defend my title. I’ve left my mark in the city.

“It makes me feel so grateful for this association (NCSSAA) and the amount of work they put into this championship.”

Since the OFSAA races are so big and staged on new courses for the student-athletes, Van Brabant is taking a conservative approach.

“I’m not sure what to think (about OFSAA 2022),” admitted Van Brabant, who did win the Athletics Ontario girls’ U18 cross-country running title for club runners in 2021. “I’d love to be in the top 10.

“The opposition will be hard, but I’ll put in a good effort and see what I’m capable of.”

Van Brabant also is mindful of her left knee injury, which she called runners’ knee.

“It’s a mild tendinitis injury,” she explained. “I can’t work out as hard as the others. But I’m more confident and I’m getting through the injury. It doesn’t bother me when I run, but I notice it when I walk and sit. I’m still able to train, but not as much or as good.”

The injury limited Van Brabant to only two cross-country races this fall. Her only race before the NCSSAA championships was the West Conference finals, which she won by almost 57 seconds.

Olivia Baggley (right) kept on the heels of Amelia Van Brabant throughout the girls’ senior 6 km course at Mooney’s Bay. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Van Brabant praised the work ethic of Baggley, who she practises with at the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, as well as her teammate’s high training mileage.

“I heard people cheering for her (along the course). My goal was to keep the gap (between them), but it wasn’t so easy,” added Van Brabant, who couldn’t open a larger lead because of Baggley’s persistence.

Van Brabant figured her injury was the result of overuse and increased hill training in September. She also maintained her training schedule while she was making visits to American universities.

After considering Syracuse University, Bradley University, the University of Toledo and Colorado State University, she was approached at the last moment by Boston College’s Peter Watson, a noted American university cross-country and track and field coach, who was born in London, ON., and ran for Canada in 2000-01.

“I felt so at home there and it has amazing academics,” Van Brabant said of Boston College. “I was recruited by coach Watson at the start of September, which is quite late. He wanted me there because their team was not strong.

“I felt so good being in Boston. I liked the people and the girls (on the team). (Scholarship) money was not the driving force. Where will I be happiest?”

Having decided the direction of her university studies, Van Brabant had one less concern entering last week’s NCSSAA championships as well as for Saturday’s OFSAA championship.

Amelia Van Brabant led the Ottawa Lions to a team title with her 12th place finish in the U18 girls’ division at the 2021 Canadian Cross-Country Running Championships in Ottawa. File photo

Van Brabant, who was part of the Ottawa Lions team which won the girls’ U18 team title at the 2021 Canadian cross-country running championships in Ottawa, will be one of five individual athletes from the NCSSAA to compete at the OFSAA championships.

She will be joined by Baggley, Jocelyn Giannotti of Holy Trinity, who was fourth in the girls’ senior race in 22:44.74; Simran Sarai of West Carleton, fifth in 23:59.86; and Allison Soler of Longfields-Davidson Heights, seventh in 24:52.87.

The top two schools in the girls’ senior class also will race at OFSAA.

Representing champion Glebe are Alexander, Caitlin Gormley (sixth in 24:42.46), Sophie Trott (ninth in 25:10.08), Sarah Flynn (10th in 25:17.05), Abbey McColgan (17th in 25:58.94) and Kaia Thomas (53rd in 30:14.88).

Representing runners-up Merivale are four athletes who all finished within 12 seconds of one another: Hana Kamel (14th in 25:49,90), Esme Smolynec (16th in 25:57.31) Charlotte Burgess (18th in 25:59.77) and Emma Hong (20th in 26:01.38).

See our 2022 NCSSAA XC Championships webpage for more coverage, including race-by-race recaps and photo galleries, in the lead-up to the OFSAA provincials on Nov. 5.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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