They say mother knows best.
According to Sheila Sprenger, mom of Richview Saints cross- country runner Jillian Sprenger, her daughter hated running at first but after attending practice at the Etobicoke Track and Field Club, it was love at first site.
Sheila always had a gut feeling that her daughter was meant to run.
“Just by watching her run, she looked like a runner,” mom said, over the phone. “So I told her ‘go to a few practices, no pressure and if you don’t like it, no big deal.’ ”
Except Jillian came back after her first workout and said “I love it.”
The 15-year-old then went on to grab first place in the East division midget city final last October with a time of 13:52.
She then went on to win the city title, and qualified for the provincial championships where she was a competitive 35th.
Now, she’s changed her view of the sport completely.
“I love running,” she said, outside Richview after school this week. “It’s basically my life. “
Sprenger played soccer and swam competitively since the age of 10. However, she had to choose either running or swimming because it was getting too overwhelming.
“It was really tough because I was swimming in the morning before school, running after school and fitting in workouts,” she said.
Trying to balance the two sports did not detour her away from missing assignments because homework was done on the bus or in the library during lunch.
When cross-country was finished last season, she joined the school’s track and field team where she also attended the 2012 OFSAA for the 3,000 and 1,500 metres in June.
However, it has not always been a smooth road for the world championship hopeful.
Sprenger suffered a leg injury in the summer of last year just before entering high school, one that forced her to stop running for over two months.
She started to feel the pain in her legs in March of 2011 but ignored it and continued running until July, when she went to see a physiotherapist who said she had developed four stress fractures.
“That [not running] was so hard for her,” said her mom. “She was really upset about it and didn’t know what to do with herself.”
Jillian now looks at the injury as a positive.
“I guess it’s a really good learning experience because now that that’s happened, I know how to deal with the injuries and stop right away when I know there’s something hurting.”
After recovering from the injury, Jillian jumped right back into running and won the city championships.
With the cross -country season coming up, Richview’s coach, Emily Fitzgerald, is excited to be working with Jillian again.
“She is a hard worker,” the drama teacher said by email. “She came to practice every single day (even if it wasn’t a mandatory practice).
“She had the most positive attitude with everything she did … and never faltered with her dedication and enthusiasm for the team.”
Currently in grade 10, Sheila says her daughter dreams of reaching the highest pinnacle of sport, the Olympics, either in marathon running or track and field.