Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teen runner testing her limits

B.C., Ontario have big afternoons It's all about experience for this racer, who's up against the big girls

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Sometimes, it's not about the medals.

While Team Manitoba has already found plenty of success at the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships at the University of Manitoba this weekend, many of the athletes have insisted that representing their province well is the main focus. And when you're a 16-year-old Grade 11 student competing in a field of mostly 18- and 19-year-old university athletes, this can be easier said than done.

Melanie Baran, the 16-year-old Winnipegger who will begin her final year at Sanford Collegiate in the fall, exhibited nothing but class Saturday in the 400-metre consolation final.

Despite finishing seventh out of eight (with a time of 58.40 seconds), and being a couple years younger than her competitors, Baran immediately collected herself at the finish line so she could shake her opponents' hands.

Respect comes first.

"It's important to me to place well, but when you're younger than everyone, it's most important you just put on a good showing for yourself," she said.

"It can be a little intimidating, but I think most of the time it actually makes me a little less nervous because I know that if I don't do that well, I know they have more experience than me anyway."

That said, seventh place was by no means a disappointment.

"I was ranked last going into that race, so to come out and finish where I did feels good. There were some really good runners out there."

Melanie's mom, Jocelyne Baran, has a different theory as to why her daughter finished seventh, and it has nothing to with her age, or the field.

"Melanie loves the 800 metres, and that's her best race," Jocelyne said. "When she finishes the 400 metres, you can see she is not even out of breath. I think she tries to save herself so she can put up a better time for the 800 metres."

The 800-metre finals go today, but Melanie, with a smile, says her mother's theory is inaccurate. She does, however, have higher expectations for the longer race.

"For the 800 metres, I would love to get into the finals," she said. "But I know I'm younger than everyone. If I set a personal best, for example, and I don't place that well, I'm fine with that."

Just as Melanie can see past the medals, so too can she see past the track itself, and while she wants to continue running competitively as long as she can, there is a higher calling.

"I really enjoy running, but I think I want to go to university in the States and study journalism," she said. "I love writing. I'd love to maybe get a track scholarship and go to an Ivy League school."

Despite looking kilometres ahead, Melanie knows that now, all she can worry about is the next 800 metres.

The men's and women's 1,500-metre final ran Saturday afternoon as Lindsey Butterworth fron B.C. stole a tight one and finished first with a time of 4:31.59. Jenna Van Vliet, from Alberta, finished second, and Colleen Hennessy, of Ontario, finished third. In the men's division, Samuel VIncent, of Manitoba, finished third with a time of 4:05.70. Robert Denault, of the Newmarket Huskies Track Club in Ontario, won with a time of 4:05.01.

The women's hammer throw wrapped up Saturday, and Kajaks Track and Field Club, of Richmond, B.C., had a handle on it. The top three finishers were all from the Kajaks club, including Joanna Franke-Kuhn, who won the event with a distance of 52.84 metres.

Madison Stewart, from Manitoba, finished eighth with a distance of 38.82 metres.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2011 B16

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