Natalia Hawthorn heading to nationals
BRACEBRIDGE - Driven, determined and striving for more, Grade 12 student Natalia Hawthorn will be facing off against the country’s top female runners this coming weekend.
INTO THE WEST WIINDS. Bracebridge Grade 12 student Natalia Hawthorn will be making her fourth appearance at the national cross-country championships for girls 19 and under in Vancouver this coming weekend. (Photo by Neil Etienne)
Taking a season off from running last year due to leg injuries hasn’t slowed the Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School cross-country racer down in 2012 as she earned her way to a fourth national appearance.
“In Grade 11 I took the year off running because I was having some problems with my shins,” she explained. “This year I was really excited to race again; it was a long time off.”
Hawthorn’s first foray back to the grass and wooded track this fall saw her reach 12th place at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) cross-country championships in Brampton in late October.
“That was really my first head-to-head race in more than a year; I was pleased enough with the results, but I didn’t feel great that race,” she said.
She also runs and trains regularly as a member of the Newmarket Huskies running club, and with them, competed at the Athletics Ontario cross-country championships held in Kingston the weekend of Nov. 10 earning a third place finish.
“That race felt great and it was a big boost to my confidence after being away for so long,” she said. “It was a good test for nationals.”
The national competition is being held Nov. 24 in Vancouver, BC, the second year in a row it has been hosted there. Although Hawthorn has been to three nationals already, she missed last year due to her injuries and won’t be familiar with the course like some of her competition will be.
“From what I’ve been told it’s a flatter course but a very muddy, challenging one,” she said, adding she intends to fly out on Nov. 22 to give her some time to walk the course prior to racing and even tour a couple of universities she’s eyeing up for next year.
After all, her preparation can’t be all physical.
“The mental aspect is huge,” she said. “I say training is like my part-time job; I run every day and dedicate most of my time to training.
“But you have to mentally prepare for that (training every day) as well as the race; the physical part is big but the mental aspect is the tough part sometimes,” she added.
Her best finish at a national competition was 13th and she said she’s not necessarily putting pressure on herself by aiming for a higher finish.
“I just want to go in and run the best I can,” she said, adding, however, the mentality of an athlete can be insistent too. “This year the top six races will qualify for the Worlds in Poland, so that’s obviously there in the back of your mind, but it’s not something I really want to think about much.”
Her high school coach, Louise Hammond, praised Hawthorn’s work ethic and commitment to her goals, calling her “focused, a mentor and a leader.”
“She is not an average teenager,” Hammond said. “She trains hard; she spends her days between going to school, training and doing homework with little time for the usual social outings that other teenagers may take for granted.”
Hawthorn said beyond looking for a university to attend next year, she does have her mind set on sticking with her running beyond school and continuing to seek national berths.
“I guess I’ve always been driven to keep pushing myself,” she said. “It’s a lot of self-discipline; it’s adrenaline.”