Zone 3 girls cross country: Nickel makes changes
Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf’’s Alexandra Nickel won the senior girls race Tuesday at the Zone 3 high school cross country meet at Firemen’s Park.
It has been two years since Alexandra Nickel last raced in a high school cross country meet at Firemen’s Park.
In 2019, the Grade 12 student at Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf won the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association junior girls cross country title at the Niagara Falls park on the way to a 24th-place finish at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships.
On Tuesday, the 17-year-old Welland resident continued her winning ways, capturing the senior girls title at the Niagara Region High School Athletic Association’s Zone 3 cross country meet
Much has changed for Nickel since winning SOSSA in Grade 10. She has taken her running to a new level as a member of the Thorold Elite Track Club.
“I have been gradually shaving off my times and I can run longer distances now and I am putting in 60 kilometres a week,” she said. “I have been working on my strength and I am a lot better on the hills. I am hoping it will help me at OFSAA to pass people on the hills.”
She refused to let the pandemic slow her down.
“Absolutely not,” Nickel said. “I have been doing a lot of training on my own as well and my mom (Holly Nickel) has been an incredible help and a support system. She has been going out with me on her bike when I do my runs.”
Nickel has lofty goals for her running career and she is hoping to be a scholarship runner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I have been keeping in touch with them and it would be such an honour to join their team.”
She will obviously have to excel in academics as well if she wants to attend MIT.
“I just took my ACTs and I am taking it again. The first time I got a 33 and I am hoping to bring it up to a 35.”
An average ACT score is 23 and the highest possible score is 36.
Her academics and running are intertwined.
“Running has always been a part of my life and it helps me takes break from my studying and it helps me perform better,” she said. “I absolutely love it. It is an antidepressant for me. It keeps me nice and calm and it helps me balance my life. It has always been a part of my life and I couldn’t live without it.”
Nickel is looking forward to the rest of the cross country season.
“I am hoping to come top 20 at OFSAA and I don’t know yet about provincials and nationals. I am hoping to do well there too.”
Senior girls individual: 1. Alexandra Nickel, Brébeuf (25:36.3); 2. Mia Nanini, Brébeuf; 3. Lauren Fennell, Crossley; 4. Jade Boisvert, Stamford; 5. Trinity Young, Crossley.
Senior girls team: 1. E.L. Crossley (3. Fennell; 5. Young; 8. Maiya Bolibruck; 12. Makenna Secord; 13. Olivia Riddle).
Kristina Etezadi finished the Zone 4 junior girls cross country race just the way she started it.
The Grade 10 student at A.N. Myer grabbed the early lead and cruised to an easy victory, finishing more than three minutes ahead of the runner-up.
“I like to lead because I know if I stay behind I don’t have the best kick to finish,” the 15-year-old Niagara Falls resident said. “I like to start with a strong pace and hold it all the way. That’s what works.”
With such a large lead in the race, the Athletics Niagara member since Grade 7 turned to self-motivation.
“I just look at the finish and I just tell myself to kick it in because I am almost done.”
Like all of her competitors, she was thrilled to be competing again.
“I have done a few meets but this is the first high school meet because we didn’t have any in Grade 9,” she said. “It is so exciting and so nice to finally run again.”
She’s hoping to continue to perform well at next week’s SOSSA meet.
“I want to place in the top five because I really want to make it to OFSAA.”
Etezadi competed in the NXTChamp Invitational championship in the summer, an invitation-only provincial meet, and she finished fourth in both the 800 and 1,500 metres.
She has high hopes for her running career.
“Hopefully I can get a scholarship and go to the Olympics some day,” she said.
Junior girls individual: 1. Kristina Etezadi, Myer (18:32.6); 2. Madison Douma, Myer; 3. Isabella Nguyen, Centennial; 4. Sarah Stacey, Crossley; 5. Katarina Cebic, Westlane.
Junior girls team: 1. E.L. Crossley (4.Stacey; 6. Alexx Hill; 7. Abbey Harris; 10. Alexis Collins; 11. Ashlynn Banks).
Abby Campbell exceeded expectations at Tuesday’s NRHSAA Zone 3 cross country meet at Firemen’s Park.
“I was hoping I would do well but I didn’t think that I would be first,” said the Grade 9 student at Greater Fort Erie Secondary School said.
The winner of the , who won the novice girls race has a simple explanation for her running success.
“It is my drive for the sport,” Campbell said.
She loves most everything about distance running.
“I like the competition and I find it relaxing.”
Campbell, who also dances and plays travel soccer with the Fort Erie Sting, has been training six days a week for the past month to get ready for the zone meet. She trained all the way through COVID and was excited to finally get to compete on Tuesday.
“We haven’t been able to race since Grade 6,” she said. “This feels normal and right to do. It feels good.”
Campbell has been running since Grade 3.
“Ray (Benard) has helped me a lot at GFESS this past year and I have been working hard to get here.”
Zone 3 novice girls individual: 1. Abby Campbell, GFESS (20:05.8); 2. Kaylee Olm, Port Colborne; 3. Raine West, Myer; 4. Bianca Romano, Centennial; 5. Madeline Berardi, Myer.
Zone 3 novice girls team: 1. E.L. Crossley (6. Sasha Tarasuk; 1. Callie Johnstone; 13. Cora McGlynn; 14. Kaitlyn Furtney; 15. Amara Vlahos).