Katrina Bruckschwaiger spends most of her time training alone, and Tuesday night at Winnipeg's Garbage Hill Park was no different for the University of Manitoba medical student.
Again and again, the London, Ont., native attacked the steepest incline Winnipeg has to offer, preparing for a major meet Oct. 31 in Edmonton, and ultimately the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship Nov. 14 in Kingston, Ont.
The Manitoba women's open cross-country champion, with a time of 21 minutes 49.4 seconds over six kilometres, Bruckschwaiger has to fit her workouts into a tight schedule that has her on course to graduate in 2010 as a physician assistant.
The Canadian Association of Physician Assistants website (www.caopa.net/) says, "Physician assistants are highly skilled health professionals who practise in a physician extender role. They perform tasks similar to those performed by their physician supervisors, including examination, diagnosis, testing, referrals and treatment, including prescribing."
The site says that in Canada, the PA role was developed by the Canadian Forces Health Services to provide a full spectrum of medical care to its members. In 2003, the program was accredited by the Canadian Medical Association.
Bruckschwaiger, who competed for one year at Columbia University in New York while doing undergraduate work, had thoughts of going for a medical degree after Columbia while working in the United States in a research capacity.
"Physician assistants had been around the U.S. for a long time," she said Tuesday, "but not in Canada. A colleague of mine introduced me to the assistant program, and when it opened up in Manitoba, I applied."
When she contacted Bisons track coach Claude Berube last year, he couldn't have been happier.
"She is very determined," he said. "She is competitive, races well and even if she isn't 100 per cent, she will still give you all she can give you."
On the track, Bruckschwaiger won a bronze medal at the Canada West championships last year in the 3,000 metres with a time of 10.05.
"I love track and cross-country equally," Bruckschwaiger said. "Each offers its own challenges. I certainly enjoy the competitive side of cross-country -- the challenge and pushing myself to the limit.
"Cross-country is more of a team sport (than track)," she said, adding that it isn't just about winning individually. "It's having a great group of girls and realizing how good our team can really be."
Berube is cautious about predicting a victory at the CIS championships. "There are so many really good runners there. The women's field has a lot of depth, but she could make first or second all-Canadian."