West Coast Winner
Victoria’s Justine Stecko is another great talent coming from one of Canada’s running hotbeds
Sixteen-year-old Victoria athlete Justine Stecko has found her niche in the sport of running. Growing up on Vancouver Island provides many sport and recreational opportunities and she pursued several of them including karate, being a member of the Mount Washington Ski Team (downhill), playing field hockey and soccer, to name a few. “Now I mostly focus on running and skiing during the winter,” said the Oak Bay High School student. Asked about her favourite subjects the straight-A student said she loves biology. Now that she is focused primarily on running, her personal bests are impressive, including running 10k (36:44), 8k (29:32), 3,000m (10:22) and 1,500m (4:48). Part of that can be attributed to talent, desire to compete and her environment. Stecko runs with the Bruce Deacon-led Prairie Inn Harrier youth team. Deacon, a two-time Olympian, runs a successful program in Victoria for athletes who enjoy the sport and are competitive. One of his athletes, Tyler Dozzi (a past ‘Honour Roll’ subject) won the youth category at the 2016 Canadian Championships. Last fall, Stecko also had a strong cross-country season. At the B.C. High School championships in Kelowna, she raced against some of the fastest runners in Canada and finished in sixth behind some very strong talent including Vernon’s Hannah Bennison, the Sevsek sisters Christina and Julie of Surrey, Kelowna’s Taryn O’Neill and Cowichan’s Desirae Ridenour, who is a top young triathlon talent. As one of the younger runners in this race, Stecko competed well, to finish one-minute and one second off of the lead.
One week prior, she competed in the B.C. Club Cross Country Championships in Nanaimo finishing fourth overall. Two of the three finishers in front of her were a year older.
Asked about the club championships race, she said, “The race went out quite fast. I didn’t have a very fast start, so going into the forest I was in about 12th. I gradually made my way into second behind Olivia Willet and held that position for about half a lap. Coming onto the field, I was quite tired and did everything I could to hold off the kickers, but with about 150 m left I got passed by Taryn O’Neill and Georgia Ginther.”
Stecko is already thinking long-term towards the right university program that suits not only her athletic goals, but also her academic plans.
“I am looking to go to a university with a great cross-country and track team that develops their athletes to continue to improve and be their best,” said Stecko. “I am interested in enrolling in a sports nutrition and exercise physiology program.” Christopher Kelsall is a contributing editor, based in Victoria.
AGE SCHOOL 16 Club Oak Bay High School, Victoria Prairie Inn Harrier youth team Bruce Deacon CLUB COACH PERSONAL BESTS 10K 36:44 8K 29:32 3,000m 10:22 1,500m 4:48