Claire Sumner didn't know what to expect of herself heading into the 2016 U SPORTS cross country season.
"Steve (Boyd)) is a great coach and I have amazing training partners (in Kingston)," says the fourth-year veteran of the Queen's Gaels cross country team. "But, this season I came in with just hoping to have a solid season. I was wanting to improve but had no expectations…I hadn't won a race in a long time."
That changed fairly quickly.
In the span of three months, the Calgary native won the individual title at the U SPORTS national championship in Quebec City, was dubbed MVP for her performance, awarded All-Canadian status and placed third at the Canadian club nationals. To add to her ever-growing list of accolades is her recent nomination to Team Canada for the World Cross Country Championships come March 2017 in Uganda. Summer also represented her country at the World University Championship last year.
Her impressive performance at the nationals in November has earned Sumner the honour of U SPORTS Female Athlete of the Month for November.
"It was a very nice feeling… every race ended up going very ideally for me," she says. "I think a lot of it this year was confidence…I knew I could stick with the big girls, and just saying that to myself during the race…I feel like I can be competitive and not just hang on, but actually race the people beside me."
The Plains of Abraham course in Quebec City, where Laval hosted the national championship, made for a familiar grinding and rolling terrain for Sumner as her home training grounds in Kingston. With built-up confidence and a running-to-win attitude, Sumner crossed the finish line of the 6-kilometre race in 21:09.3, nearly six seconds ahead of her opponent. The win was a culmination of her fantastic season, where Sumner also won the 6-Km OUA championship race, as well as her season opener on home course at the 8-Km Queen's Open, in the first collegiate meet in North America featuring identical distances for both men and women.
Before racing becoming a star at Queen's, Sumner spent her rookie season with the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. She ran her first year with decent results, but it wasn't until she visited a friend at Queen's that she felt the urge to transfer.
Queen's had a solid cross country team, resembling the one at U of T, but the college-town feel, along with the fact that her parents were both Queen's alumni, grabbed her attention and she quickly fell in love with the idea of attending the smaller institution. In the face of the Varsity Blues' high-quality cross country program, Sumner made her choice late into the summer before her second year began, and felt an immediate impact. The life sciences major saw a shift in her all-around balance between athletics, academics and her personal life. The choice – moving to a smaller school, and one with a particularly warm atmosphere – has made a huge difference.
"Having the balance of athletics and social just makes everything work better together," says Sumner. "It helps to be all-around balanced."
Source: U SPORTS