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Track athlete from qathet receives second honour

Nelle Liefsoens recognized again by BC Athletics for her steeplechase accomplishments
MEDAL WINNER: Wrapped in a provincial flag, track athlete Nelle Liefsoens competed in the 1,500-metre steeplechase event at the nationals in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and came away with a third-place medal. Liefsoens has been recognized for the second year in a row by BC Athletics for her running accomplishments, after having received an award for cross country in 2023.

After medalling in the 1,500-metre steeplechase event at national and provincial events, qathet region track athlete Nelle Liefsoens has received a second award from BC Athletics in the under-16 girls category.

She was previously recognized for her prowess in cross country running, receiving an award from BC Athletics in 2023.

Competing as a 15-year-old last year, Liefsoens placed third in steeplechase at the national championship in Sherbrooke, Quebec, shaving nine seconds off her personal best time in the event.

On the day prior to her medal-winning performance, she participated in a 2,000-metre event, but was nowhere close to her personal best.

“On the second day, I said that I really wanted this,” said Liefsoens. “My mental state was better for the steeplechase and I pulled it together.”

In the BC high school championship, prior to the national championship, she placed first in her age group and second overall in steeplechase in the provincials in Langley, and also medalled at the club championship in Nanaimo.

Liefsoens said she is motivated to compete in steeplechase because it is kind of in-between cross country and track competition.

Steeplechase is a track event that features an obstacle, a big hurdle, that competitors must jump over, and often there is a water feature on the other side of the hurdle. The event is derived from horse racing, where steeplechase involves diverse fence and ditch obstacles.

Liefsoens said the steeplechase event is more difficult than running on a flat track. For her age group, 1,500 metres is the only distance, but for older runners, steeplechase can go up to 3,000 metres. She said she did not have the water feature in the nationals.

Training for steeplechase involves going to the Timberlane track and running distance, plus setting up a hurdle on the grass to practice landings, according to Liefsoens. For steeplechase events without water, runners just jump over the hurdle obstacles but when there is water, they have to step in it and leap as far as possible out of the water.

Liefsoens typically practises four times a week at the track and said she enjoys the training, which is physically and mentally challenging. She shares her passion for running with her mother, Inge Tholen.

The pair thoroughly enjoys running cross country together. Tholen said she can no longer keep up to her daughter on the track.

Liefsoens wants to go to the national competition again in steeplechase, and is also hoping to go and run cross country at the Canada-wide competition. She will begin intensive training again after spring break.

In the meantime, she is active in all kinds of other sports, competing in hockey, basketball and soccer.

In terms of long-term goals, Liefsoens, now 16, plans on running through high school, and after graduation, would consider running at the university level. In past, she has run distances such as 800 metres, 1,500 metres and 3,000 metres, as well as the cross country and steeplechase events.

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