Holly Hicks is a second-year Gee-Gee from Windsor, Ont. She is a Biomedical Science student looking forward to competing at her second RSEQ Cross Country championship this week. Talking about her team, Hicks emphasizes the supportive environment, the focus on development, and the ability to turn feelings into accomplishments.
Hicks was a member of the Windsor Legion Track and Field Club in her hometown, working to personal best after personal best on the track in the 1500m. She was in a training setting which often featured Canadian Olympic team members Brandon McBride and Melissa Bishop, which she still draws on as inspiration.
"There were high expectations [at home] and I liked it, but I really wanted to go away for school," says Hicks, who filled out a recruiting form for the Gee-Gees cross country and track and field teams. "Andy and Helen are very careful with the rookies - they don't want you to do too much too soon. That relaxed me and made me feel very comfortable because I didn't have these crazy expectations put on me from the get-go. We have four years to work up to wherever you want to be. It's about developing long-term and working towards goals."
Along the way, Hicks notes that the team at uOttawa is also an important support network in achieving her academic goals. "There's a lot of people on the team here that are also very concerned with academics," she says. "People are here to run but they also want to do well in school - there's people in bio-med, people in engineering. I feel like the team has a lot more in common than just running." The Gee-Gees had 21 Academic All-Canadians on the cross country and track and field teams in 2016-17.
The cross country team practices in two groups, at Strathcona Park and at Terry Fox Athletic Facility at Mooney's Bay. Hicks' group is under the supervision of coach Helen Cooper at Terry Fox and includes a mix of rookies and senior runners, as well as a group of Carleton Ravens.
"We have a diverse background in terms of athletes. Some people did triathlons and some people had more or less experience coming in," says Hicks, whose primary focus is actually on the track and the 1500m, and comes from an athletic background of competitive Irish dancing, having competed in the World Championships.
"Everyone is really supportive and everyone has their own thing that they are good at. Just because someone isn't the fastest person - they might be the person who likes to organize things or is a really positive mental thinker and that's how we help each other out, where people who are faster encourage the others and bring them along."
For Hicks, development is at the forefront of her goals. "Obviously there's times that I want to hit, but I also want to feel tough and calm throughout the race, and feel like my form was there while also feeling the effort. Even when you don't reach your goal time, when that happens it feels like an accomplishment."
Another learning opportunity came when Hicks took stock of her own rookie season and decided which direction she wanted to take. "Last year in the 1500 I didn't run under five minutes. I sat down with Helen and I said 'this is what I'm capable of and this is where I want to go,'" says Hicks referring to the OUA standard of 4:50."I'm excited now that we're on the same page and I can see it now - there's a vision for my development. I took initiative and I can be proud of that too."
The upcoming RSEQ championship meet is an opportunity to finish the Cross Country season on a high note. Hicks considers the event the highlight of her rookie year. "It was a slip and slide but it was a great course: rolling but not with crazy hills. You could feel the energy and everyone had very positive vibes and the overall sentiment at the end was that everyone made a really good effort."
For Hicks, the camaraderie of the cross country team is a vital motivating tool as she looks ahead to the indoor track and field season. "I get motivation from other people on the team that love cross country and that fuels me. At the track it's often the reverse. It's a balance. Everyone can feed off it in a different way."