Cambrian College cross-country coach Eric Leishman will have to focus on quality over quantity this fall. While team’s roster is smaller than usual, the coach and former top-end OCAA athlete received a very welcomed bonus with the arrival of local product Emily Marcolini – and he holds no punches in assessing exactly what the former St. Benedict Bears runner might achieve.
“Emily is going to be very competitive, even on a national scale, I would think,” said Leishman before practice last week. “We’ll know more after we race this week in London.”
In a sense, Leishman is experiencing exactly what he provided to the then Cambrian coach Meghan Juuti some seven years ago. And just like Juuti, Leishman could still train with his crew, which is a scenario that is not all that far removed from his own days in OCAA racing.
“I’m still learning from Darren (Jermyn) and Dick (Moss), and I’m learning from my own running, messing around with training, seeing what works for me, and then trying it out on my team,” he said. “Obviously, with newer runners, you can’t just hit them up with mileage. It’s more quality than quantity.”
Marcolini, however, is something of an exception, even if she has experienced an “interesting year”, in her own words. “After track season last year, once I decided that I wasn’t going to be returning to Laurentian, I was a little bit unmotivated to train,” she recalled.
“But then I actually ended up falling in love with cycling. I did quite a bit of that during the summer. I’ve just switched back to running in the past few weeks.” Still, the daily workouts that dated back several years to her high school days provided an incredible base to springboard back into action, even if there was something of a training lull in between.
“I’m doing a little less than I was at this time last year, but still a fairly decent training schedule,” said Marcolini. “Based on the few workouts that I have done so far, I know that my base speed isn’t quite there at the moment, but my endurance is still pretty much as good as ever.”
“So I’m thinking that I can still run mid to low 19’s for a 5 km,” she continued. “We’ll see, though, what happens in a race scenario. I’m hoping to be top five, at least, at the OCAA’s, but a podium finish would be nice.”
Marcolini wasted little time serving notice that she will be among the contenders in 2015, placing first in the season opening race at Fanshawe on Saturday, crossing the line in 19:47, more than 30 seconds ahead of Lucy Njeru of George Brown.
Her arrival provides Leishman with something of a consolation prize, having lost talented triathlete Marek Bialkowski to an injury sustained during the summer. In the meantime, Leishman starts his third season as coach, slowly learning to make the transition from being the runner, to guiding the runners.
“It’s hard being on the sidelines and wanting to be out there competing,” said Leishman with a laugh. “Last year, I started to notice a bit of a difference though, in that I was able to remove myself from being athlete and take on more of the responsibilities of a coach.”
“I’m still figuring it out.”