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PURSUIT: Newmarket Huskies in it for the long run

Newmarket club sets the pace for long-distance running standards and continually attracts the region’s top runners

For more than 20 years, Newmarket has set the pace for long-distance running standards and has continually attracted the region’s top runners.

One club in particular is responsible for the high bar, and it’s not planning on slowing down any time soon.

The Newmarket Huskies Track Club focuses on events from the 400-metre to the marathon and has more than 100 athletes ranging from students in Grade 6 to adults in their early 70s. Some of its many notable alumni include London Olympian Sheila Reid and Tokyo Olympian Natalia Hawthorne.

The club’s coaches pride themselves on helping members achieve personal bests through dedication and hard work. Since the Huskies are an AAA competitive distance club, they expect their athletes to compete in the provincial championships, attend two practices a week and commit to running six times a week for optimal results.

The Huskies are in the midst of their outdoor track season as they prepare for the provincial championships in a few weeks and nationals after that. They have practices on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings at Dr. J.M. Denison Secondary School and an optional longer run on the Tom Taylor Trail on Mondays. Since many of their runners come from Markham, Uxbridge and Barrie, they aren’t expected to attend Mondays.

The Huskies workout routines and training locations also vary depending on the time of year.

“We basically set ourselves up into seasons,” said Sue Deighan, the Huskies’ high school and university girls coach. “We have cross country in the fall and then we do an indoor track season from January to April. Then we go outside and focus on hills to build strength for the month of April, and then May to August is track, and the kids get most of August off.”

The level of running is also a big step up from the school level. The age or experience of someone interested in joining isn’t important, but they need to have a solid foundation to keep up.

“They basically have to meet a certain standard to be in the club, so our policy for new athletes is that they come and have three practices,” said Deighan. “They just pay a $20 insurance fee for our insurance plan and then, after those three practices, we sit down and talk to them about (whether) they fit in ability-wise. Do they fit in training philosophy-wise and are they passionate about running?”

An average practice during the outdoor season consists of a three- to four-kilometre warmup, followed by drills and then an interval workout that is usually tailored to a runner’s event. Workouts also ramp up in intensity as the season progresses. Members are also expected to mix in recovery runs and individual workouts to build their mileage.

Students or adults who are passionate about running and interested in joining can try out at any point, but there are certain times of the year that are more ideal to start their experience with the Huskies.

“We always say when we’ve just had some time off is a good time,” said Deighan. “Our kids are already firing on all cylinders. They’ve finished their OFSAA and high school season and now they’re gearing up for provincials and nationals for the club. So, for a new person, it’s a tough time to come. It’s good to come in September, and oftentimes it’s good to come in January.”

Since the Huskies’ longtime coach and mentor, Hugh Cameron, founded the club, the coaches have strived to create a welcoming and supportive environment to fuel the passion of their athletes. Deighan compares the atmosphere of the club to that of a family, because everyone trains together and works together to achieve the best results possible.

The Huskies’ mantra is perhaps best summarized in the words of Cameron: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

Whatever obstacles may be in the way are no match for the grit and drive of the Newmarket Huskies Track Club.