Orillia native finishes in top 10 at competition
Submitted Twin Lakes Secondary School graduate Lisa Brooking is shown racing in Kingston at the Canadian Cross Country Championship. The 2015 Orillia athlete of the year finished eighth to earn her golden ticket as a top-10 performer. Athletics Canada will take six senior women’s competitors to upcoming world and Pan American championships. Brooking is hoping to be one of the chosen runners.
Lisa Brooking, Orillia’s reigning athlete of the year, earned her “golden ticket” on the weekend, and is now anxiously awaiting to see if that ticket will allow her to represent Canada at two prestigious international competitions.
The Twin Lakes Secondary School graduate battled difficult conditions, a challenging course and more than 60 of the country’s top senior women’s athletes to finish eighth at the Canadian Cross Country Championship in Kingston. The event serves as a qualifier for both the IAAF World Cross-Country Championship in Uganda and the Pan-American championship in Nicaragua.
“Because it is a double qualifier for worlds and Pan-Am, I knew it would be a real fight for the top-10 spots and I was not wrong,” Brooking told the Packet & Times. “It was one tough race.”
The top 10 finishers earn a ‘golden ticket,’ but Athletics Canada will only take six senior women to the upcoming international competitions. As a result of Brooking’s eighth-place finish, two of the top six would have to choose not to participate in those events for her to make the grade.
“Considering both competitions involve lengthy travel and there is a high potential for acquiring illness, which may hinder future competitions, their coaches and sponsors could advise them not to attend,” said Brooking, who dreams of representing her country at the 2020 Olympics. “As for me, I simply want the international racing experience no matter which country it’s in.”
The 29-year-old hopes to get an answer within a week. “It’s really nerve-wracking because I trained really hard to get to this point and raced hard to earn that golden ticket,” she said. “The chance to represent Canada again at two international events is within arm’s reach.”
It’s within arm’s reach because of her performance in Kingston – a mix of determination, talent and grit that has come to define her. Brooking started strong and ran side-by-side with the leader early on. However, during the third loop of the challenging course at Old Fort Henry, a pack of six women passed her and started to pull away. As she fell behind, she knew her top-10 hopes were fading.
“Looking back, I should’ve pushed harder to stay with them as the pack pulled away and left me to run alone until another girl caught up to me,” Brooking explained. “It was at that point that her and I battled it out for the remainder of the race. I can honestly say I ran my heart out, especially in that final kilometre where my legs felt like Jell-O. I sprinted as hard as I could into the finishing shoot and across the line knowing that I gave it my all.”
The senior women’s event was the ninth race (age group) of the day. Pre-event snow mixed with unfrozen ground left the 2.5-kilometre loop around the fort muddy, wet and slick – especially around the 180-degree corners. Deep puddles also proved to be obstacles. So, while she would have loved to finish in the top six, she was pleased with her result.
“I was quite surprised I was able to maintain that quick pace considering how technical the course was with a steep hill and several significantly sharp turns with each loop,” she said. “My finishing time was 34:35. To put that in perspective, I ran that exact same time in the Vancouver Sun Run 10-kilometre road race this past April.”
For perspective, it’s also important to understand that she was racing against Canada’s best. Sasha Gollish, the race winner and 2015 CIS female athlete of the year, has won medals at the Pan-American championship, made it to the final of the Olympic Trials in the 5,000 metres and recently set a new Canadian half-marathon record.
“I feel so privileged to run among such a strong field of woman who are fierce and hungry to push the boundary in Canadian women’s distance running,” said Brooking. “To finish within 40 seconds of a world-class athlete like Gollish is pretty exciting, especially since my training was focused to have my peak performance at the (CIS) championship two weeks ago. I surprised myself!”
Brooking has been surprising herself and her rivals since returning to competitive racing in 2014. Earlier this month, racing for her Trinity Western University team based in British Columbia, she finished fourth at the 2016 CIS Cross-Country Running Championship for Canadian university students.
A former two-time CIS All-Canadian cross-country running star in 2007 and 2008 at the University of Windsor, Brooking returned to competitive racing in 2014 when she opted to go back to school to pursue her master’s degree at Trinity Western.
She has quickly ascended to the top of her sport – both as a cross-country runner and a distance track runner. The trauma nurse shocked the field last year when she finished fifth in a star-studded international field of athletes at the Pan American Cross-Country Championship in Venezuela. That helped her win the Orillia Athlete of the Year award for 2015.