Out of 165 girls circling the trails at Island cross-country championships in Victoria last week, Miryam Bassett was the fastest of them all.
The 15-year-old Nanaimo District Secondary School student earned the title of Vancouver Island’s fastest teen, barely, reaching the finish line half a second ahead of Nanaimo Christian School’s Marita DeSchiffart.
“It didn’t really cross my mind that she was so close behind me,” Bassett said. “I was sort of in the zone and I knew I could win it with 100 [metres] or so left.”
But she must have heard footsteps, right?
“I did, but I didn’t think about it. Just ‘run faster’ is what was going through my head.”
‘Run faster’ is often what’s going through her head. To have the drive to finish first in a field of 165 runners, it takes a competitive mindset and Bassett has that, said her coach at NDSS, Dave Matte. He recalls her being “devastated” last year after a silver-medal finish in the 800 metres at track and field provincials.
Some of that competitive spirit is in the Bassett genes. Miryam is third-youngest of nine siblings, several of them runners. She said when her family really started to get into the sport, she was only six years old, one year too young for sanctioned competition.
“So I always wanted to do it because they were doing it and I wasn’t allowed to,” she said. “It’s always been something that I’ve always wanted to do, but my mom and my dad, they’re always really happy that I am doing it and they like to encourage me and push me to do better.”
It’s pushed her to an Island championship – and NDSS to its first cross-country crown since 1984 – and now both the star runner and her team will be contenders at provincials Saturday (Nov. 5) in Kelowna.
Bassett will be running an unfamiliar course, but she excels on all types of cross-country terrain.
“Miryam just flies up the hills, she just takes off,” said Matte. “So she’s got some good strength to really kick it, and she’s got good endurance, too.”
Bassett has the confidence and the training, she said, to win big races. She’s run in enough of them to recognize when she’s really feeling it.
“It all depends on the race day,” she said.
RUNNING SHORTS … Carly O’Sullivan, Rebecca Bassett and Tkia King are some of ND’s other top runners. The NDSS team went into the Island championships dealing with some injury troubles, making their first-place finish a surprising one. “I’m going in there going, ‘I’ll be happy if we can just qualify,'” said Matte. “So for them to come out and pull out an Island title, I just couldn’t stop smiling.” … While NDSS was winning the girls’ Island championship, Dover Bay was winning the boys’ Island title. For more on the Dover Bay team, please click here.