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RDP Queens Jenica Swartz overcomes the odds during national championship week

She competed in two nationals last week
Red Deer Polytechnic Queens Jenica Swartz competes for the ball against Les Rouges during the CCAA National Championship in Quebec. (Photo submitted by Red Deer Polytechnic Athletics)

Red Deer Polytechnic Queens athlete Jenica Swartz is a woman of many talents.

But none more so than her ability to push herself to the limit – which saw her compete in not one but two national championships within the last week.

The second-year dual-sport athlete, who played forward for the Queens’ soccer team and ran on the cross-country team for the past two years, had an intense week that would make most athletes crumble, but Swartz persevered.

On Monday, the Lacombe native joined her team in Quebec for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Women’s Soccer National Championships, where she played in two of their four games, scoring one of their two goals.

However, that was just the beginning of a hectic week for Swartz, who went to catch a flight on Friday back home where she would join her cross-country team in the CCAA National Championships in Medicine Hat, only to find out it was delayed.

Once she landed in Calgary late at night, she made the nearly three hour drive to Medicine Hat, joining her teammates around 2 a.m.

Swartz raced just hours later, around noon and finished in fourth place in the 6 km race with a time of 23:24. The Queens’ cross country team as a whole finished 10th overall in Canada with 148 points.

Swartz said she got as much sleep as she could and simply just tried her best on Saturday.

“I didn’t try to focus on the fact I didn’t have a lot of sleep and that I was already tired from playing two games that week and all the training too,” she said.

“I felt a little bit more tired than I normally would. I started tired but it didn’t have a big effect. I think until I got to the third lap around. I think the fact that my legs were already tired from soccer and then it was so snowy that all combined into making my legs pretty dead while I was finishing.”

This was a common occurrence for Swartz throughout the year because of the crossover between the two sports. She recalled many times having a race on Saturday and a game on a Sunday, which could be hard to manage on top of school work.

“Even if there was no race, there are usually one or two soccer games on the weekend so I never really got a break,” she said.

With the incredible finish, Swartz was named a recipient of the CCAA All-Canadian Award. In the last few weeks, Swartz also won the bronze medal in her race at the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Cross Country Championships.

In soccer, she won the gold medal in the ACAC Women’s Soccer Championships, the first in program history.

Despite the strain of being a dual-sport athlete, Swartz said the success this season made it all worth it.

“The experiences were definitely worth it and the team and individual performances I found were very rewarding… This year was so much better than my last year. Last season I was running injured for the whole season and then I broke my ankle in January,” she said.

Originally Swartz never intended on going to school at Red Deer Polytechnic but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she didn’t have many race times to submit to universities in Canada to compete at the U Sports level.

Once she joined the RDP cross-country team she was convinced by her high school soccer coach to play on the Queens’ soccer team as well.

In her first year of doing both sports, she said it was a challenge because she tried to make it to all the training sessions and practices. This year she cut back a bit in an attempt to not overwork herself and as a result had to miss some sessions.

Next year Swartz plans on transferring to a university in Canada to compete in cross country at the U Sports level. This year marked her final year of playing soccer because of the physical demand of doing both.

“It’s also time-consuming… I’m finding myself very like physically and mentally drained somedays just because there is so much going on all the time,” she said.

“Ability wise I’m definitely more of a runner but I also do really love soccer. I am very sad to be leaving and not playing anymore. I’m definitely going to miss all of the girls but I think for my physical and mental health I think it’s best to play one sport from now on.”

Swartz has still not committed to a specific school and is considering a few universities before she makes her final decision. She will have three years of eligibility remaining and is considering what programs and courses will be best for her moving forward.

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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