Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reid Thinking .... What Next?

NCAA champion Reid not nearing finish line yet
By John Cudmore,
Jun 15, 2011

For now, she is queen of the NCAA.

Villanova University middle distances runner Sheila Reid, 21, never dreamed she would become one of the more celebrated female athletes at the NCAA level with four national titles to her credit and time to still add more, yet, last weekend’s performance at the NCAA track and field championships in Des Moines, Iowa is hurtling the Newmarket resident into that sort of stratosphere.

Wins in the 5,000 metres Friday, followed by the 1,500 a day later, combined to make the Sacred Heart Catholic High School graduate the first woman to win those events in the same NCAA final. They also complement wins in 2010 in the 1,500 and cross-country, raising the question, ‘What’s next’?

With one more year of eligibility, it must be discomforting for NCAA rivals hoping the Newmarket Huskies runner is inclined to mosey on down the road sooner, not later. Beyond that loom the 2012 Olympics in London, England and 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Although highly competitive and driven, Reid could not have foreseen she’d be collecting multiple championships in one of the NCAA’s more international and diverse sports.

“Definitely not,” said Reid, who returned to her parents’ Newmarket home Monday night. “One would have been very nice, so it’s a lot more than I hoped for.”

That said, Reid still has eligibility for cross-country in the fall and the outdoor season next spring when she returns to the downtown Philadelphia school for a fifth year.

“I think it works out well for me as a build-up toward the 2012 season,” said Reid, who will compete at Canadian senior nationals next week in Calgary for the first time in her career. “I need consistency when I’m trying to qualify for London and Villanova is a familiar situation for me. I’m five seconds off (Olympics qualifying time), but I think it is something that is really do-able. I think I’ll be able to run faster this year.”

Qualifying for the London Games is on her wish list for the next year. Reid views that challenge as a step toward 2016 in Rio, when she will be reaching her prime.

“Middle distance runners hit stride in their mid to late 20s, but I think for what I want to do later, it would be great to qualify for next year,” said Reid, who is leaning toward the 1,500. “To be there in 2012 would be great for the experience. By 2016, I want to be in the final and kicking and trying to win a medal for Canada.

“It would be a fantastic experience and a huge honour to represent Canada. I haven’t been able to do that for a while, but I’d like to do something for Canada.”

There is a certain comfort level built in to the NCAA system that Reid embraces and wants to maintain to feed her competitive engine. She welcomes the challenge on the track and off.

“It’s a tough system,” conceded Reid, whose freshman year was marred by hip surgery. “There’s definitely a gap between the top NCAA athletes and the top runners in the world, but it is a good stepping stone. The big thing is being in competitive racing day in and day out. It’s the perfect training environment.”

Because of the grueling nature of collegiate competition, Reid has never competed in the national championships at the senior level.

“I’ve never run Canadians or against these women before because I’ve always stuck to NCAAs,” Reid said. “But I’m excited to mix up with the seniors. They’re all very experienced racers.”

With a large recruiting class scheduled to enter the Villanova program, Reid is also eager to return and offer guidance to a new class of Wildcats. Perhaps she’ll even earn another national title or two.

“I came in with a big class and we kind of took over the team,” she explained. “We were loud and the senior class didn’t know what to do with us. There was no one to show us right from wrong, although eventually we found our way. I’d like to return by scoring well and showing younger girls the ropes.”

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