Trail cross-country runner Jaxon Kuchar is heading down under to race against the best in the world.
Kuchar, 18, was named to Team Canada and will compete at the 2023 World Athletics Cross-Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19.
“I am super excited,” Kuchar told the Trail Times. “It’s a dream come true to represent Team Canada at the world level, and I get to race against some of the best athletes in the world, it’s an exciting experience.”
A first year University of Victoria student, Kuchar is a member of the Victoria Endurance Club and competes for the UVic Vikes cross country team. He and fellow UVic rookie Tion McLeish qualified for the team in Ottawa at the Canadian National Championship on Nov. 26, and will make their Team Canada debuts competing in Australia.
Veteran runner, Kate Ayers, also trains with the Vikes and will race in the women’s open division.
Kuchar finished 12th overall at nationals in the men’s 8-km race, but placed fifth among U20 runners.
Because the top six qualified for the world games, the 2022 J.L. Crowe graduate will race in the U20 event in Bathurst.
Kuchar will join a field of 175 men from around the world that will compete in the eight-kilometre U20 men’s division. Made all the more challenging by Australia’s summer heat, the Team Canada crew is preparing in a unique way to get acclimatized.
“It’s definitely been pretty high mileage running wise, and my coach (Hilary Stellingwerff) has set up sort of a heat chamber in her garage,” explained Kuchar.
The athletes run on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike in a pair of tents with heaters blazing to raise the temperature up to 40C to get the runners used to competing under the duress of the Aussie simulated heat.
UVic head coach, Stellingwerff, will lead Team Canada in Bathurst. The former Olympian also coached Team Canada at the 2020 Pan American Cross-Country Championships and competed at the World Cross-Country Championships in 2005.
“Jaxon is a fantastic athlete and we’re so fortunate to have him on our team at UVic,” said Stellingwerff. “He is very coachable and has progressed faster than most rookies so I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
“I credit Colin for preparing Jaxon so well for university level running and educating him on training. Jaxon already exceeded most of my expectations and he’s more than ready to compete in Australia next week.”
Kuchar’s J. L. Crowe track coach and teacher, Colin Adamson, has since moved to Victoria, and is a proud follower of Jaxon’s progress.
“I thought that he definitely put himself into a position with all the hard work, dedication, consistency, success, and enjoyment of running and racing over the last couple of years to challenge for a U-20 Team Canada cross-country spot,” said Adamson. “I knew that going to UVIC for his first year would be a place where he would flourish.”
Kuchar attributes much of his progress to Adamson and his commitment to athletics and academics during Kuchar’s time at Crowe.
“The coaching in J. L. Crowe and the training is what got me here,” said Kuchar. “Colin Adamson especially as my high school coach … I wouldn’t be at this level if it weren’t for him training me and getting me to this University competition.”
Team Canada will field 28-athletes in five categories: the U20 women and men, Open women and men, and mixed relay, which will comprise five Olympians, seven World Cross Country Championship veterans, several national champions and top varsity athletes.
Kuchar looks forward to the experience of his first global event, but is keeping his expectations in check.
“I think trying to be around the middle, I don’t think I’ll be competing against the elite runners from the U.S. or Kenya, yet,” added Kuchar. “That is the goal some day, but just really having a strong race, enjoy the experience, and be in the moment. That’s what it’s all about.”
Following the worlds, the Vikes contingent will head to U SPORTS Track & Field Championships in Saskatoon from March 9-11.