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This article was published 12/2/2018 (832 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jennie Baragar-Petrash is back on track after a tough first season of NCAA cross-country and athletics.
Now in her second year at the University of Arizona, Baragar-Petrash, a Grant Park High School grad and River Heights native, joined the Wildcats in the fall of 2016 after graduating high school with several provincial cross-country titles to her name and racing with the Canadian junior national team.
In her first year of college competition, the 19-year-old fell ill with a persistent flu that kept her out of races for much of the season. She managed to make strong appearances in six races and finished 68th at the Pac-12 Championships and 98th at the NCAA west regionals, but an urgent wisdom teeth extraction affected her training and competition schedule.
As she transitioned to the indoor track and field season, Baragar-Petrash developed a minor stress injury in her right foot that relegated her to the gym.
"My coaches decided to be really cautious about that in coming back to soon," Baragar-Petrash said. "They helped me a lot with that, and my trainers were really great. I took a couple of months off to cross train and stay in shape.
"I didn’t run outdoor season and basically after school ended, I started running again and came back slowly," she said.
Her first competition after the injury was at the Canadian Track & Field Championships this past July in Ottawa, where she happily finished second in the junior women’s 5,000-metre race.
After a summer of training in Winnipeg, Baragar-Petrash said she had her first real breakthrough in the fall cross country season.
"I ended up knocking off huge chunks of time from my six-kilometre races from last year on the same courses," she said.
At the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships in October, she finished 24 overall in the women’s six-kilometre race with a time of 19:33.9 and followed up that race with a strong 29th place finish on Nov. 10 at the NCAA western regional in Seattle in a time of 20:23.1.
At the six-kilometre Canadian national race, held in Kingston, Ont. on November 29, Baragar-Petrash crossed the finish line in second place behind Kingston’s Brogan MacDougall in a time of 20:56.7.
"This year was so different because I thought of myself as being up there with those really fast runners," she said. "It was a whole different mindset from where I was last year."
Baragar-Petrash said the nearly three-and-a-half month lull in which she was unable to compete at her fullest was frustrating but also provided surprising motivation.
"I came into college, as a lot of people do, with all these expectations," she said. "Through getting sick and having all these little obstacles I had to overcome, it made me realize that I have to really be patient in this right now.
"It was hard to but it’s what ended up motivating me to get back into it over summer."
Baragar-Petrash is now focusing on the indoor track season and her 3,000-metre event and the mile as she tours around the States running and shaving off the seconds from her personal bests.
"The thing I love about college running is you know there’s always going to be other girls faster than you," she said. "So I set goals for myself to try to get to their level. Even my teammates, I train with them every day and I see their determination and that motivates me as well."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.