Just one day back from Kampala, Uganda where she ran the grueling six-kilometre IAAF World Cross-Country Championships Saturday, Hannah Bennison deserved a cheat day as she battled jet lag.
“I think I had three chocolate glazed apple fritters yesterday and a tub of chocolate chip mint ice cream on Tuesday,” said Bennison, a VSS Panther student-athlete who turns 18 in August.
Bennison finished an impressive 23rd in a field of 100 in the U20 female race, her and a Japanese runner the only non-African athletes in the top-23. Bennison clocked in at 20 minutes and 50 seconds, the best time on the six-member Canadian entry which was sixth.
“I was ecstatic with my race,” said Bennison, who has a NCAA Division 1 scholarship to run for the Providence College Friars in Rhode Island next fall. “I had no real expectations because of the long travel and huge 10-hour time change so I was happy to be the top Canadian and happy that our team was sixth which is a big deal.”
The top-four times from each team count. Bennison is eligible to compete again in two years if her college schedule allows it.
Her placing was also the top North American, Pan American, and Commonwealth finish.
“My junior women’s team was only three points off of fifth. This is the highest Canadian team placing of the event, and the first non-African/Japanese placing of the U20 women’s race.”
To put things in perspective, other Canadian junior men/women who have placed in the top-27 in past world cross country championships have gone on to make multiple Olympic finals and break numerous Canadian/American track/road records.
“It took me a while to get adjusted to the time change,” said Bennison. “It took us 38 hours to fly there. We were five hours to Toronto, 10 to Istanbul and 10 to Kampala. The conditions were brutal. It was 30 degrees with a 65 per cent humidity for our race. We had done heat training, but a couple of girls passed out at the finish line. The carnage at the finish line was awful. Even some of the African girls were crawling across the finish line and that doesn’t usually happen.”
Bennison packed a suitcase full of peanut butter, canned tuna, beef jerky and bread. The team was put up in a modern hotel and fed lots of bananas and rice and pasta.
The hilly course featured man-made ski jumps, logs and ditches, obstacles Bennison was able to avoid during the three loop-race.
Bennison earlier competed in the Pan Am Cross-Country Cup in Boca Raton, Fla., after flydowns to universities in Washington, D.C.. Rhode Island, Washington State and Toronto. The Grade 12 student qualified for the worlds by winning the nationals last November in Kingston.
“I’m going to take two weeks off now. I sign April 10 with Providence College (coach Ray Treacy) so I will be receiving a training program from my coach. I hope to run some cross country races this summer in the U.S. and B.C.”
Bennison will study political science and English at Providence, with an eye towards getting into law.