GPRC hosts CCAA cross-country event under very difficult conditions

Anna van der Giessen (right) places seventh, nationally, finishing little over one second behind Vanessa Brown (left) during the CCAA national championship race. The women's course consisted of a six km run around Borstad Hill in Muskoseepi Park, Saturday Nov. 9, 2019. van der Giessen's final time was 26:14.58 John Watson / Daily Herald Tribune

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Despite a large collection of runners face down at the finish line, it was a tough request to get the race course up to par at Muskoseepi Park on Saturday afternoon.

Considering the course conditions—and harsh weather—at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Conference men’s and women’s cross country event at the local park and surrounding environs, it was a run, run-away success.

“I was really proud to be a Grande Prairian after we finished that event,” Wolves running coach Bill Corcoran said. “As a city, an organizing committee, we just crushed it. Everybody realized it was going to be a tough situation but everybody pitched in and got it done. Grande Prairie knows how to host national events and for a city this size, it punches about its weight. This was another example of how great a community we have, pulling off (something) like this under really difficult conditions.”

“I absolutely loved it, loved having it hosted here,” added Wolves runner Tairas Fournier. “It’s was a fantastic experience. I’m glad I got to be a part of it.” Fournier crossed the line in a time of 34:07.35, finishing 89th out of 106 runners in the men’s 8-kilometre race.


Wolves runner Anna van der Giessen finished seventh in the women’s six-kilometre race, qualifying her for an All-Canadian status. Wearing bib number 51, the Bezanson resident finished the race in 26:14.58.
“I am very happy with that result, especially since it’s Bill and Rick’s last year and I was glad to do that for them, because they’re the best coaches and I was glad I could make them proud,” van der Giessen said.
Corcoran and Rick Lane retired from coaching the GPRC Wolves running team after the race.

“(Van der Giessen) has improved a ton since getting fourth at provincials,” Corcoran said. “She was second of the Alberta girls. What she said to me before the race was, ‘Bill, should I go out fast and I said, ‘Yes, you better go out fast, stay in the top 10 and just hang there.’ Top 10 are the All Canadians, that was her goal and that’s what she did.”

The coach knew the 20-year-old had the goods buried somewhere in her frame. It was just a matter of bringing in out, making the mind and body connection.

“She’s a fairly talented runner but she was lacking confidence,” Corcoran said. “She’s has some really good results, particularly after the latter part of September, she realized that she was good enough to hang with these girls and on Saturday she really proved that.”

Shout out to Mr. Meyer

Around two dozen volunteers picked up a shovel and got busy, clearing plenty of snow out of the way, trying to give the runners a fair shot at running as clean a race as possible.

“The city said they would help us remove the snow on Saturday and I had no idea how it was going to look,” Corcoran said. “Al Meyer from the city started up the snow blower and did a loop of the course and then he did the start area and by the time the coaches arrived at 9:30 in the morning, they were gob smacked. We moved a hell of a lot of snow in a couple of hours. With a couple of dozen people shoveling, we had a course, and considering the conditions, that wasn’t too bad. Meyer was the hero of the day, he was amazing.”

Two for One

There is definitive proof one thing led to another for Anna van der Giessen.

The Bezanson resident finished seventh in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Conference six-kilometre women’s race at Muskoseepi Park on Saturday afternoon.

And while seventh place qualified van der Giessen as an All-Canadian, she’s done some pretty interesting things outside the realm of the All-Canadian designation.

The 20-year-old GPRC student was a member of Team Alberta North at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Ala. and the 2016 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.

“(I was) a snowshoe runner,” van der Giessen said. “There was three days of that. We did a mid-distance at five kilometres, we had a track day where we would do sprints and stuff and we had a longer day where we ran seven and half kilometres. We ran in snowshoes (for the sprints) and it was quite difficult. It was difficult and you had to focus on not tripping.”

Her decision to try cross county running got her a return ticket to a pair of winter games, as she explained.

“I was in Grade 9 and I decided I was going to run cross country zones just try it out and I ended up (doing well) but that was the end of it (or) I thought it was the end of it,” van der Giessen said. “And then Mirelle Martens tried out for the snowshoe team and they didn’t have enough runners so her mom was looking at the cross country results and she had found me. She called my mom and asked if I wanted to try out for the snowshoe team. I had never heard of snowshoe running before but I thought why not.”

Martens was a runner at GPRC.

The former PWA student ended up having a great time.

“It was a cool experience to go somewhere with a team like that and experience something different, a different culture,” van der Giessen said.