ANTIGONISH, N.S. — Melissa Hardy will get another chance to test her mettle against the best varsity cross-country runners in the country.
The 21-year-old Deer Lake native helped St. Francis Xavier University X-Women capture top honours at the Atlantic University Sport cross-country running championships in Halifax over the weekend.
The fourth-year human nutrition student, in her second season with the team, was the fastest runner for her team and fourth overall with a final clocking of 18 minutes, 22 seconds over the five-kilometre race.
Before the AUS showdown, Hardy said talk in running circles led everybody to believe it would be a tough battle against two-time defending champion Dalhousie University Tigers and it would be a toss-up as to who would prevail.
It proved to be a gruelling race, but Hardy believes the X-Women were better prepared mentally on this particular day.
“If you even seen the pictures, there’s two Dalhousie girls behind us the whole time and you couldn’t slow for a second or they would have got us,” Hardy said Tuesday afternoon from Antigonish.
Hardy, on the advice of her coach, decided to run the race alongside teammate Natalie Kannenberg, who ended up in fifth-place overall.
Running the race together helped the two girls push each other when they needed it most and that support is always welcoming, according to Hardy.
“If I was a slack ass she would let me know,” she said of the strategy for the girls to keep pace with each other throughout the race.
Hardy and company, who will represent at the Canadian Intercollegiate Sport (CIS) championships Nov. 10 in London, Ont., put an end to the Tigers’ two-year rule of running at the AUS level. The championship banner is something the team wanted back and Hardy is soaking up all the accolodades that come with being a champion. And, oh yes, she is tickled pink that the X-Women defeated its rivals to make it happen.
“It feels awesome to have it back. I mean it’s so nice to have the banner in my room right now,” she said, noting the coaching staff and entire student body is proud of the team for the accomplishment.
Hardy, daughter of Deer Lake’s Beverly and Peter Hardy, was new to the running world a few years ago and wasn’t good enough to crack the X-Women roster in 2010.
She decided to work her butt off in the off-season and came back with a vigour to earn a spot. She earned a spot on the team and earned a berth on the AUS all-star team before placing 33rd overall against the top varsity runners in the country at the 2011 CIS championships.
She hopes to improve on last year’s individual performance and she hopes the X-Women can do a little better than seventh spot this time around.
Until then, she plans on keeping her feet moving.