East Elgin Eagle Hallee Knelsen will continue her education and running career
next autumn at the University of Western studying medical science
Friday, December 18th, 2020
By Rob J. Ross
AYLMER, ON. - One of the premier middle distance runners in Canada is staying close to home.
Hallee Knelsen, a Grade 12 student at East Elgin secondary school in Aylmer, received numerous offers, but in the end chose Western University, in London, to continue her education and running career.
"I chose Western because I thought they were the full package," Knelsen said, during her signing ceremony Thursday in front of East Elgin. "They have really good medical programs which is what I'm going into. They also have a great team and I'll be surrounded by people who are accomplished athletes and that will push me to be my best."
Knelsen is enrolling in the Health Science program, with the plan to attend med school and will be running both cross country and track for the Mustangs.
Following the 2019-2020 indoor track season in February, Knelsen ranked number one in Canada, for the 400, 600 and 800 metre runs and second for the 1500-metre runs. Knelsen won gold in the 800 and 1500, at Athletics Ontario 2020 indoor track provincial championships.
Since Grade eight (at Summer's Corners elementary school), Knelsen has trained with the St. Thomas Legion Club, under head coach Harry Stantsos.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Knelsen hasn't competed for the East Elgin Eagles since OFSAA cross country, in November, 2019.
"Unfortunately in Grade 11 and Grade 12 there hasn't been much," Knelsen said. "It's been hard because I thought I had a lot of potential this year, because it's Grade 12 and you want to get your best season in. It's really hard knowing that I haven't had an OFSAA track since Grade 10."
Three appearances at OFSAA cross country are among her highlights, but it has been on the track where Knelsen has truly shined, with the 800 metre run being her specialty.
"OFSAA silver in Grade 10. That was a really big accomplishment for me," said Knelsen, recalling her junior year. She also won an OFSAA bronze medal in the 1500-metre run that same year.
Knelsen has four gold medals (800, 1500 for both Grade nine and 10) from Western Ontario (WOSSAA) track meets and is a three-time Thames Valley Regional Tri-County cross country champion (Grade 9, 10, 11).
With St. Thomas Legion, Knelsen captured bronze in the 800, in both 2018 and 2019, at the National Legion championships. She was also fourth in the 1500 at Legion Nationals in 2019. Her official personal best time for the 800 ran outdoors is 2:09.54, set in August, 2019.
"Those have been all accomplishments for me," said Knelsen, who credits Stantsos for her achievements and improvement over the past four years.
"Harry has been huge. I joined the club going into Grade eight and it has just been steady improvement," Knelsen said. "He has always done what is best for every individual athlete. He always knows what needs to be done to make myself better. It has been really great having him. I've come a long way."
Coach Stantsos says Western as a good fit for Knelsen, adding Mustangs track head coach Vickie Croley and cross country coach Guy Schultz will be welcoming a distinctive athlete.
"She's an amazing runner. She puts her heart in everything she does. She trains really hard and she listens. Athletes like Hallee don't come around that many times," Stantsos said. "I've had a lot of athletes over the years, but she is like my daughter. She is a special person. I want the best for her. She's going to do a lot in the future. A lot of schools wanted her. Her heart was there for Western."
Hallee didn't forget her mom and dad, Maggie and Henry, along with older brother, Landon.
"My parents have driven me everywhere for track and take a lot of time away from their days," Hallee said.
Having her daughter close to home is quite alright with mom.
"I'm really thrilled for her. I'm glad for the choice that she made. There were a lot of options," said Maggie. "Western is a good choice for her, academically and athletically. She knows some friends that are also going there. It'll be really nice that she will have a team."
The Eagles never had enough runners to qualify for the team standings, therefore it'll be a new experience for Hallee at Western. Among other Western recruits, are runners Sophie and Chloe Coutts.
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