Runner eyes Pan Am Juniors

Braden Novakowski charges ahead for Queen’s cross country.
Braden Novakowski charges ahead for Queen’s cross country.

This weekend, Braden Novakowski will temporarily trade in the tricolour for the red and white maple leaf.

He will be representing Canada at the Pan Am Junior Athletics Championships in Windsor. It will be his fourth time on the start line in international competition—and his second in track and field—but the prospect still excites him.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a thrill, especially at the Pan Ams because lots of people cheer for Canada.”

Novakowski runs both cross country and track and field for Queen’s. At the Pan Ams, he will be competing in the 1,500 metres after qualifying in second place in Montreal with a time of 3:58.67 two weeks ago.

Cross country head coach Shane Lakins said he knows well how fast Novakowski can be.

“We’re working on his speed,” Lakins said. “I’ve coached him since grade nine, and that year he came out to the first practice and I watched him run and said to him ‘I’ll see you at the Queen’s practice.’ He had ability right off the bat.”

Lakins said Novakowski recently ran the 1,500 metres in 3:49, which is the rough equivalent of running a mile in 4:06. It was not so many generations ago that people thought the four-minute mile would never be run.

Despite his youth, Novakowski has racked up a long list of accomplishments. In his first year at Queen’s last year, he was named both the OUA and CIS Rookie of the Year in cross country. He has won multiple OFSAA titles, competed in two Junior World Championships in cross country, and has already run once for the Canadian national team in track and field. This will be his last national team appearance as a junior—after this year he moves up to the senior ranks.

Novakowski is undaunted by running for two teams, and has a training schedule which allows him to be effective in both cross country and track.

“They complement each other pretty well,” he explained. “You can start training with track in mind at the end of the cross country season, and you can start looking ahead to cross country near the end of the track season.”

Novakowski, a Kingston native and a graduate of Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute, had eyed Queen’s for some time before his arrival last fall. He was courted elsewhere, but said he had good reason to choose Queen’s.

“[Lakins] was a factor. He was always encouraging me to go to Queen’s,” Novakowski said. “I thought from grade nine that it would be nice to go to Queen’s, and I’ve always thought that school comes first, and running second.

“I visited some American schools and their attitude was ‘you’re a runner first, and a student second,’ and I didn’t really agree with that. Queen’s is a great school, and it has a good training environment, and it’s good academically.”

Novakowski, an economics student, credited those who have supported him for his success.

“[Lakins] has been a massive part of my running career,” he said. “He helped me through the rough parts, and he’s been there for the good parts. Also, my family has been extraordinarily supportive. My dad got me into this sport in grade seven, and there have been various other people along the way.”

Lakins said he expects Novakowski to be an important part of a strong cross country team in the forthcoming season.

“He was our number two runner last year, and I expect him to be our number one or number two this year,” he said. “Our men’s group is very strong this year, but he’s probably in the top two or three in the country.” Novakowski outlined modest predictions for his own performance at the university level this year.

“It’s hard to know where you’re going to end up, but ideally, in cross country, I’d like to improve on my OUA and CIS placings,” he said.

“I’d like to be top ten in both. In track, I just want to go in, run some pretty good times, get relatively high placements—just keep improving.”

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