She might be the new kid on the UBC Okanagan Heat cross-country team, but in her first couple of months Sandy Kilmartin is already burning up the track.
Right from the start Kilmartin impressed UBCO coaches Nikki and Nate Reiter with her speed and endurance in various pre-season events.
“She has been something of a surprise during her time training with the team thus far,” said Nikki Reiter earlier in the season, adding that Kilmartin, “with very little training under her belt” had posted some impressive times: 1:39:59 half-marathon PR (personal record), and 11:35 for a 3,000-metre time trial.
Kilmartin was active while she was at Salmon Arm Secondary but hadn’t done a lot of running since graduating in 2011.
“At school I did badminton, rugby, cross-country, gymnastics, house soccer, mountain biking and dance. I have awesome parents who drove me everywhere,” she says laughing. “After Grade 12 I had two years off. I did no training and then in April this year I went in a half-marathon. I kind of wanted to do that so I started training in March. I ran with the (SAS) A.M. Fitness class.”
At the time Kilmartin was attending Okanagan College in Salmon Arm.
SAS and SAS teacher Tricia Martin, who was teaching the A.M. Fitness class, encouraged her to go to Kelowna so she could be part of the university cross-country team.
“I hadn’t thought about it; I didn’t think I’d be able to make a sports team,” she says, but kept training throughout the summer. “I ended up doing well, and now I’m the fastest girl on the team.”
The season opener took the UBCO Heat team to the University of Washington’s Sundodger Invitational where Kilmartin placed 87th out of 209 in the Women’s Open 6-k run with a time of 23:43. The fastest time was 21:12.
The UBCO women’s team bested all Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) teams at their next meet in Edmonton, the Grand Prix #3, hosted by Concordia University of Alberta.
The objective of a cross-country team is to produce the lowest combined score of the four top runners. With four UBCO Heat runners placing between sixth and 15th, the Heat took top team ranking. Kilmartin continued her role as front-runner with a time of 20:16.
“The course in Edmonton, although very hilly compared to the terrain the Heat had grown accustomed to, did not seem to alter the team’s strategy as they ran a very tight race, with six Heat runners travelling the first kilometre, with only a five-second spread from the first to the sixth Heat runner,” says Reiter.
The hills aren’t so difficult for Kilmartin who is used to them from her summer training in Salmon Arm, but the longer distance courses are her challenge.
“All my runs (in Salmon Arm) included at least three hills… but the 6-k is hard for me. In high school it was a 4-k race, but I’m getting used to it.”
The collegiate racing season keeps a steady pace, with races almost every other weekend. Their next race is in Bellingham, followed by provincials in Abbotsford and nationals in Toronto.
Although Kilmartin isn’t too far from home, her race schedule, on top of her homework for her science courses, as well as constant training, doesn’t allow for a lot of free time to return.
“Mondays and Wednesdays we have easy runs, 40 to 60 minutes; Tuesdays and Thursdays are harder with interval. We have Fridays off, and on Saturday and Sunday training is in the morning. We do strength training twice a week and sometimes we do pool running.”
Being away from Salmon Arm, Kilmartin has learned to appreciate that although she’s faster, everything else is slower, especially the traffic.
“I miss being able to get anywhere in five minutes. I have to leave 25 minutes early and I waste my day travelling.”