STELLARTON — Athletes need to make sure their achievements in competition exceed their performance in practice, Eric Gillis says.
Gillis, who is from Antigonish and ran for Canada in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, was guest speaker last Thursday at Pictou County Athletics’ annual awards night at their facility in Stellarton.
He is St. Francis Xavier’s head coach of cross-country and track and field.
Gillis congratulated PCA for assembling a large membership over its eight years and graduating more than 250 members, some of whom have returned to give back what they have learned.
“I’m a firm believer in bringing a lot of people together,” he said. “It brings the sacrifice and hard work down and raises experience and enjoying what you’re doing. You’re putting in good work and looking forward to doing it again. The tough part is transferring the training into competition.”
Gillis has run some of the fastest marathons of any Canadian. He ran the Olympics 10,000-metre in 2008 in Beijing before finishing the 2016 marathon in London in two hours, 16 minutes.
He was the first Canadian since 1976 to finish in the top 10 when he placed 10th in 2:12:29 at the 2016 Olympic marathon in Rio de Janeiro.
Gillis shared his experience in qualifying for the 2012 marathon at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2011 by just .07 seconds, despite windy conditions.
“I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way,” he said, referring to his mental and physical preparation. “I wasn’t going let myself get in the way.”
Among awards, Keighan DeCoff earned the performance of the year award. She won a gold medal with a personal best throw that set a Youth Nova Scotia record in shot put and took home a bronze medal in discus at the 2019 Royal Canadian Legion National Championships.
Two awards for desire, dedication, determination and leadership were presented. Allie Sandluck received the Frank Terris Memorial Award presented to a female athlete, while Ethan MacDonald was presented with the Pat Carty Award that goes to a male athlete.
Mattea Miller-Evans received the top female rookie award, while Luke MacDonald was presented with the top male rookie award.
Most improved awards over the full year went jointly to Cara MacDonald and Kristen Ross in the female category and to Conrad Robertson in the male category.
Hailie Eisan was the female recipient and Lagan Horton was the male recipient of the most improved spring and summer awards.
Giving back awards went to Lisa and Dana Landry, while Liya Robertson, Ruby MacDonald, Marilyn MacCara and Marylin Sandluck received ambassador awards.
From left: guest speaker Eric Gillis stands beside Ethan MacDonald with the Pat Carty Award, Allie Sandluck with the Frank Terris Memorial Award and performance award winner Keighan DeCoff. (Goodwin photo)