On Saturday March 28th in Amman Jordan, London Runner Distance Club athlete Chantelle Wilder lined up at what is widely regarded as the most competitive race in distance running - the World Cross Country Championships. Wilder qualified for this event by being one of the top Canadians late last fall at the Canadian Cross Country Championships in Guelph, and was joined by 4 other Canadian Senior Women to take on the world. Despite being the final Canadian selected to the team, she was keen to take on the challenge and ran a very smart race. Improving her placement throughout each loop of the 4-lap, 8km race, Wilder finished 76th and was 3rd amongst the Canadian women. The Canadian Senior Women placed 11th overall as a team. "The race went well," says Wilder. "The course was extremely challenging; however, I felt I approached it with confidence and finished respectably." Her comments were closely echoed by coach Steve Weiler: "We were careful to be very realistic in our approach. Chantelle's training went fairly well, she was peaking on time, and ran a smart race - you really can't ask for much more in an athletes' first appearance at a World Championships."
While competing against the best in the world may seem like an 'end of the journey' to many, for Wilder this is simply the beginning. "The race confirmed for me that I would like to continue to pursue a running career post-collegiately in whatever capacity God has in store for me," said the current University of Hawaii grad student, who completed her collegiate eligibility in '08. Wilder will finish her Masters degree this spring and return to London to train with the London Runner Distance Club in her build up to the Canadian Track and Field Championships, to take place in Toronto June 24-28.
Her recent successes at the Canadian, NACAC (North American, Central American, and Caribbean), and World Cross Country Championships certainly haven't been lost on her club teammates - like Canadian University All-Canadian and FISU (World University) Cross Country Championships competitor Bethany McChesney, another post-collegiate athlete coached by Weiler. McChesney commented that "Chantelle and I both were at a point after our collegiate days were over when we had to make that decision - were we going to continue to train hard and see where it takes us, or to just back off and run just 'for fun'. It is not just her end result that motivates me, but the daily process of working towards an unseen goal of just getting better and not giving up the fight... because of nothing else than we just love it."
While Chantelle Wilder was the only London area athlete at the World Cross Country Championships this year, there is a building expectation that this will change in future years as the London distance running scene is on a marked rise. When returning to London this spring to prepare for the Canadian Track and Field Championships, Wilder will not be met by a mere one or two other hopefuls to train with as in previous years, but a deep crew of collegiate and post-collegiate athletes that mark the strongest training group the London area has seen in many years. Athletes such as Adrian Walton - the 2008 Ontario 5,000m and 10,000m Champion - and Kyle O'Neil - a CIS All-Canadian in Cross Country and 4th place finisher in the 2009 Canadian University 3000m race - headline a rapidly growing Senior group. "There's still a long way to go," says coach Weiler of his long-term visions for the Distance Club. "But, at the same time, it's hard not to get worked up the way the past year has gone. With several athletes picking up Provincial and National Development carding, a steady stream of athletes joining the club, and support from key players in the community like Paul Roberts, owner of Runners' Choice - it's a very exciting time right now in London."