Not an uphill battle

Rookie runner finds fast success with Gaels cross country

Julie-Anne Staehli never trained with a competitive track club, but the Lucknow, Ont. native took the OUA by storm with strong results at Queen’s, Western and Guelph.
Julie-Anne Staehli never trained with a competitive track club, but the Lucknow, Ont. native took the OUA by storm with strong results at Queen’s, Western and Guelph.
Photo: 
Cross country head coach Steve Boyd noticed early leadership abilities in Staehli.
Cross country head coach Steve Boyd noticed early leadership abilities in Staehli.
Photo: 

Cross country runner Julie-Ann Staehli’s potential is materializing, and she’s still fresh out of the gate.

Before coming to Queen’s, the first-year recruit had never run an event for a club team. Two months into the season, she’s become the best Queen’s cross country has to offer. Since leaving her hometown of Lucknow, Ont., Staehli’s led the Gaels’ women’s team to a current eighth overall ranking in the CIS. She most recently finished 10th overall at the Guelph Open 5km event — her third top-ten finish of the year to date.

Coming from a town where hockey was pushed over any other sport, Staehli took to the hills instead of the rink.

“Thanks to great coaches in high school I stuck with my running, and it’s really worked out,” Staehli said.

Her youth and inexperience haven’t yet caused her to lose composure come race time.

“It’s good to get out in the front pack just at the beginning of the race, so that you get yourself a good spot before it narrows off into the bush,” Staehli said.

“I try to hold my position for most of it and, if I can, save some for the end so I can make some ground later on.”

Queen’s cross country head coach Steve Boyd said Staehli’s success without extra coaching or club experience made her a clear target for recruitment.

“She was pretty undertrained coming out of high school,” Boyd said. “She was running mostly just on natural talent, which is one of the reasons I wanted to get her here.”

Before making a mark at Queen’s, her accomplishments included a gold medal in the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) track meet in the 1.5 km steeplechase, and an 11th place finish in the 800m.

Her steeplechase finish was the second-fastest time ever recorded by a female in the competition.

“We knew she had a ton of upside, and we really wanted her to be a runner for us in the future,” Boyd said.

In her first university season, Staehli has finished as the top Queen’s runner in every event that she’s entered.

She finished third overall at the Queen’s Invitational and placed sixth overall at the Western Invitational.

With these finishes, she has cemented herself as a key part of the Gaels team for the OUA Championship on Oct. 27, and will certainly play a role at the CIS championships, should the team qualify.

Aside from her early running success, Boyd said Staehli’s charisma makes her an important team leader.

“She has helped change the culture of the team a lot,” he said. “Everybody is very serious and is bent on getting better because of the vibes that come off of her.”

“She’s like a franchise player, I guess you could say.”

— With files from Peter Morrow

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.