WIKWEMIKONG—Four young Wikwemikong women are working hard with their coach to become a competitive force in the cross-country world, training each day and becoming a four-athlete satellite branch of the AAA Newmarket Huskies competitive track club.

Grade 5 Pontiac School teacher Robin Cooper explained that she saw major potential in runners Francesca Pheasant, Victoria Trudeau, Autumn Peltier and Sierra Pangowish, students at her school. Ms. Cooper is herself a runner, with a background of excellent in competitive high school cross country meets and even earning herself a running scholarship to Augustine University in South Dakota.

“I had been coaching these girls in some sort of capacity since they entered our school system at Pontiac,” Ms. Cooper explained. “What separated them from everyone else was not their athletic ability but their sheer dedication and determination to get better each and every day.”

Victoria Trudeau, Autumn Peltier and Sierra Pangowish out for a training run.
Victoria Trudeau, Autumn Peltier and Sierra Pangowish out for a training run.

“In October of 2014, I came across information on an elementary indoor track meet in Hamilton scheduled February of 2015,” the coach explained. “I ran the idea by my principal and got the okay with the caveat that all fundraising would be done by the girls under my guidance. They began fundraising right after I asked them if they would like to compete at an indoor meet. They were ecstatic. They began training right after the Christmas holidays, staying after school every day to train.”

The girls returned home newly confident after their first indoor track meeting with Victoria earning a bronze medal in the running long jump event.

That same winter, the girls persevered through the snow and the cold, training each day with their sights set on the Royal Canadian Legion District H meet in Sudbury this past spring. All that training paid off, too, as each of the girls was rewarded for her efforts with a medal.

“It was after spring track and the school year that the wheels began to turn in my head,” Ms. Cooper added. “I figured there had to be some sort of cross country race for elementary kids in southern Ontario. I began emailing various coaches and contacts I had made to see if there were open races for elementary kids—every contact replied unfortunately, no. I wasn’t discouraged and knew there had to be something so I began my Internet search and found a series of MTA (Minor Track Association) sanctioned cross country races for kids. There was only one problem—kids needed to be members of a registered athletic club. I knew that there were no Northern clubs that were members of MTA, thus began by search for MTA clubs.”

Ms. Cooper then found the Newmarket Huskies AAA track club, which has an atom girls’ division, and reached out, asking if they would consider taking on a satellite ‘club’ on a Northern Ontario First Nation.

Huskies minor athlete head coach Geoff Peat responded and said the club was ready and willing to give it a shot. Ms. Cooper then held a meeting for the parents, who were also on board and then Francesca, Victoria, Autumn and Sierra were officially Huskies.

From left is Francesca Pheasant, Sierra Pangowish, Autumn Peltier and Victoria Trudeau.
From left is Francesca Pheasant, Sierra Pangowish, Autumn Peltier and Victoria Trudeau.

The girls participated in four events this fall: in Bolton, Burlington and Etobicoke, taking a first as a team in the atom girls’ division and being named the atom provincial champions in Etobicoke. They also raced on November 15, again in Etobicoke, where they placed third in the bantam girls’ division.

The athletes are on a break before Christmas now but will begin training again in earnest for the event where it all started, the Hamilton Indoor Games in February.

“What separates these girls from everyone else is simple,” their coach boasts. “They demonstrate a desire and dedication to the sport of running. Their commitment is admirable and commendable. They want to improve and they listen and implement training tactics into their sessions.”

“These girls train every day after school in whatever weather Mother Nature brings,” Ms. Cooper added. “While kids are on their way home after school, these girls are in the change room getting ready for their one-hour training session. They know that in order to be successful, they need to train. They are making that connection to life as well. You want to be successful in any area whether it is in school, friendships, or any sport for that matter—it takes time, it takes dedication and a whole lot of work.”

“These girls can accomplish anything they put their minds too—they just have to work for it!” Ms. Cooper enthused.