Many young men and women will attend post secondary schooling in the hopes of finding their academic calling. On the side, Natalie Taillefer discovered her athletic calling as well.
The eldest of two children in the family, Taillefer grew up in Elliot Lake, sports-minded from the start. Attending Villa Francaise des Jeunes, she would enjoy a multitude of athletic endeavours, a fortunate break considering the small french public school only housed 75 or so students.
“I was lucky, because the girls that I grew up with were all really into sports, so pretty much every sports team I was on, was me and my friends,” explained Taillefer. While cross-country and track & field, along with volleyball and badminton, were part of the mix, they would all take a backseat to her first true love.
“In high school, I was actually more into basketball than running,” she said. In fact, at one point, she traveled regularly to Sudbury for practice sessions while competing with the Sudbury Lakers club team.
But over time – two years spent in Guelph before returning north to Cambrian College – priorities changed. It was during her first two years studying Physical Fitness Management that Taillefer first contemplated joining the Cambrian cross-country team – with a little coaxing.
“My friends kept bugging me to run with Cambrian. I was always running in the gym anyways, so they said why not just join the team,” said Taillefer. It wasn’t as though she had no base to work from.
The talented multi-sport athlete attended the OFSAA cross-country championships in Grade 9, before running became a secondary interest, helping her remain fit for basketball season.
As luck would have it, Taillefer’s arrival to the program coincided with coach Meghan Juuti (also from Elliot Lake) joining the team. It wasn’t long before improvement would be seen, quite noticeably at that.
“I wasn’t used to running that much,” said Taillefer. “After last season, I actually stayed on Meghan’s program throughout the year. I followed her weekly program to a “T”, because I wanted to come into this season ready to compete.”
The end result of her efforts were evident. A mid-pack runner one year earlier, Taillefer would consistently place within the top twenty this fall, including a 19th place finish at the OCAA championships, where she covered the five kilometer course in 21:50.
Capping off her season, Taillefer placed 33rd of 130 female competitors at nationals in Fredericton. Daily running was now part of her routine, her lifestyle. “I always say that I’m going to be running until I’m like one hundred.”