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Knelsen 7th in U Sports debut

Knelsen seventh in U Sports debut


 The 18-year old Malahide resident with the Western Mustangs misses

 advancing to the women's 600-metre final by one position



team width= Hallee Knelsen during a women's 600-metre heat, Thursday at the U-Sports track and field championships, at the Irving Oil Field House, in Saint John, New Brunswick. (photo / Rob J. Ross)


     March 31, 2022


By Rob J. Ross 

ST. JOHN, N.B. - In her first apperance on the National stage Hallee Knelsen just missed making her first final.

The Malahide resident with the Western Mustangs, placed seventh overall, in the women's 600-metre run in a time of one minute and 34.32 seconds (1:32.34), missing a qualifying spot by one position or 12 one-hundredths of the second (1:34.20), on day one of the U Sports track and field championships.

"I know I could have ran the final so it sucks to be one spot out. It was kind of tactical. The first lap was a good pace and then it slowed right down," said Knelsen, who started the race on the outside lane, for the three lap race. "It was hard to try to make a move. I was on the outside and it was hard to pass on the curve. I think I could have done a little more, could have gone right before the last lap but I didn't. The way I finished I felt not tired enough."

Knelsen won't dwell on the disappointment of missing the 600 final, as the 18-year old has the 1000 metres and the 4x400-metre relay, on Friday. Then the 4x800-metre relay on Saturday.

"I knew there was a chance of not making the final, because I haven't ran a 600 time that would put me in the top (six)," Knelsen said. "But it's okay. I have three more races."

Knelsen, a first year Health Sciences student at Western, admits to some nerves heading into her first race at U Sports, but adds the distances haven't changed.

"It's a completely different environment, but at the same time you're doing the same thing you've done all year."

The races are simply more competitive with the best in Canada on the track.

Grace Konrad, of Trinity Western, posted the fastest qualifying time at 1:30.34. The final will feature Konrad, Sydney Smith, of the Ottawa Gee-Gees, Sadie-Jane Hickson, of the Guelph Gryphons, Avery Pearson, of Saskatchewan and Olivia Cooper and Grace Cook, both from the University of Alberta.


Pearson brings world experience

Avery Pearson made a name for herself last summer, at the 2021 World Athletics U20 championships, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Pearson, from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, finished seventh, in a personal best time of 2:06.42.

Now a first year Kinesiology student with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, Pearson is competing in the 600, 1000 and the 4x4 and 4x8 relays, this week at U Sports. Pearson advanced to the 600 final with the fourth fastest qualifying time (1:30.46).

"The biggest thing is that I gained confidence in my competitiveness and my ability to perform and succeed under pressure. That's the biggest takeaway from the whole experience," said Pearson. "There's still a ton for me to learn and a ton I don't know know about the sport, but overall it was personal growth and development."

On the world stage, Pearson learned not to be consumed by her competitors' times.

"It doesn't matter what the seed times are. There were a dozen girls who came into the competition with faster times than me, but I didn't let that affect me," Pearson said. "I trusted my training and knew that when it comes down to it, the clock is at zero for everyone. It's just go out and race and anything can happen. I went in like 20-something and ended up seventh."

Pearson has again the goal of making the standard of 2:07.20 for the 800 and returning worlds, this year, in Cali, Columbia.

Coming in to U Sports, Pearson may have felt pressure to perform, but the recently turned 19-year old is still a first year runner at the university level

"That's the biggest thing. I'm freshman, lots to learn still and lots to prove in the coming years," Pearson said. "Try to keep the pressure off myself a little bit knowing it's my first year. It helps."

Pearson has a busy schedule, with four more races, but her mental outlook overcomes any thought of fatigue.

"For me, it's keeping my head in the game and just staying sharp and mentally focused, because I have lots more racing to do, so I want to show up for my team and myself and see what I can do," Pearson said. "I'm a big visualizer. My biggest thing I do when competing is staying focusing and visualizing my racing, that mental preparation. It doesn't matter how my body is feeling. The season is done after this weekend. I can rest later."


Track rivals

With both having the same birth year of 2003, Pearson and Hallee Knelsen will likely see a lot of each other at National meets in the coming years.

Knelsen and Pearson first met at the Legion Youth National championships, at Brandon, Manitoba, in 2018. Knelsen took home the bronze medal in the 800 metres, while Pearson was ninth. In the 1200-metres, Knelsen was seventh, Pearson, 15th.

A year later, the pair clashed in the women's 800-metres, at the 2019 Legion Nationals, in Sydney, Nova Scotia, with Pearson winning in 2:08.71 and Knelsen finishing third, in 2:09.79.






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