Athletics High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: St. Pius X’s Isabella Chiumera ‘a true competitor’ in cross-country running, swimming

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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

Isabella Chiumera is one determined, busy and accomplished athlete.

Here’s a snapshot of a recent weekly training schedule for the Grade 10 St. Pius X High School student-athlete.

As a cross-country runner for her west-end high school, she trains three times with her teammates, putting in long runs to prepare for a variety of meets.

As a swimmer with Swim Ottawa, she’s in the pool nine times a week, covering up to six kilometres in the morning and as many as four kilometres in the afternoon.

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On the weekend of Oct. 22-23, she opened her swimming season at the Nepean Kanata Barracudas Fall Invitational meet and left the Nepean Sportsplex feeling satisfied. She set personal best times in the 200-metre breaststroke (2:53.27) and 400-metre freestyle (4:50.18) in the class for swimmers born in 2007 and earned a bronze medal in the former race.

Four days later, she was at the start line for the girls’ junior 5,000-metre challenge during the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association cross-country running championships at Mooney’s Bay.

And for the second consecutive year, Chiumera emerged as a champion. After winning the city girls’ novice title in 2021 at the Hornets Nest, she placed a tight first in the junior test in 17 minutes 53.19 seconds.

And for the first time, Chiumera will race at the OFSAA provincial high school cross-country running championships Saturday at the Dagmar Ski Resort in Uxbridge.

St. Pius X’s Isabella Chiumera won the girls’ junior city crown by three seconds ahead of Paul-Desmarais’s Ciara Villeneuve. Photo: Dan Plouffe

Ciara Villeneuve of Paul-Desmarais was only three seconds behind Chiumera in 17:56.19, which was a significant improvement for her, after finishing in sixth place and almost 100 seconds behind the St. Pius runner in the 2021 city novice final.

Peak Centre Academy’s Grace Streek, who overcame a transfer issue last month to represent her new high school, was third in 18:10.23, despite battling a painful stitch.

“My race was good. I was a little sick (sore throat) in the race, it was windy and the beach sand was slippery. The hills weren’t too bad … and I didn’t go too hard at the start,” said Chiumera, who finds her two sports help each other from a cardiovascular point of view.

Streek, a friend and next-door neighbour of Chiumera, struggled to stay near the front.

“She has so much determination,” Streek said of Chiumera, who also sports the same type and colour of running cleats as her. “I see her training all the time. She’s awesome.”

Besides winning a third-place medal, Streek also learned a valuable racing lesson – don’t eat too close to the start of a race. She ate some food about 90 minutes before her race, which resulted in a painful stitch for a good part of her time on the course.

“I felt good at the beginning, but after the second time up the hill I felt very, very bad. I couldn’t breathe,” Streek explained. “I felt I started a little fast.”

Streek, who was a student-athlete at Merivale High School in 2021-22, balanced the pain of a stitch with the feeling of satisfaction of being able to race for her new school. She was able to transfer to and represent Peak Centre Academy because she did it before the start of Grade 10.

“For the longest time, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run (for Peak),” said Streek, who uses running to stay fit and maintain her all-around health. “I appreciate being able to run now.”

Isabella Chiumera will get to race at her first OFSAA provincial championships on Nov. 5. Photo: Dan Plouffe

As Chiumera was winding her way around the five-kilometre course, St. Pius coach Dwayne Scullion marvelled about her athletic ability.

“She makes it look easy,” he said. “She runs a steady race, doesn’t panic and isn’t afraid to go out front. Most of her training (at St. Pius) is light runs because she trains a lot for swimming and tries not to overtrain.

“She has natural ability and good lung capacity. On the hills, she’s not intimidated. She likes cross-country running, likes to push herself and is a true competitor.”

Chiumera will be joined by four individual girls’ junior athletes for OFSAA – Streek, Ashbury’s Kate Johnston-Zemek (fourth in the city final in 19:22.35), St. Francis Xavier’s Bridget Jeffrey (fifth in 19:41.87), and Glebe’s Waverley Lyons (sixth in 20:05.52).

Representing the NCSSAA as the girls’ junior team champion are John McCrae’s Paige Jennings (ninth in 20:29.21), McKenna Hill (30th in 22:18.75), Katie Pearson (34th in 22:39.32), Maria Rodriguez (51st in 24:08.53), Taylor Hoger (74th in 25:26.11) and Isabelle Anderson (76th in 25:42.94).

Representing the NCSSAA as the girls’ junior runner-up team are Paul-Desmarais’ Villeneuve, Bronwyn O’Ray (26th in 21:55.69), Tessa Forward (38th in 23:13.36), Alyssa Brule (60th in 24:30.89), Olivia Ferguson (68th in 24:58.69) and Paula Vivas Moncada (82nd in 26:39.90).

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.

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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 “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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