Kaitlyn Harrison is pictured with her horse. Photo by Tracy Harrison.

Huskie standout’s love of running started in rural Sask.

Kaitlyn Harrison’s earliest memories of running are of following her dad up and down the rolling hills of her family’s cattle ranch near Lumsden. She fondly remembers running through pastures and along beaver dams, adjusting their gaits with the constantly shifting terrain.

“It was great because I love being outside,” says Harrison, who is now in her third year of environmental sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. “I love nature and just being active.”

So it’s no surprise that Harrison gravitated toward cross-country running at a young age. She joined her elementary school cross-country team in Gr. 4 and has been competing in the sport ever since. After a fifth-place finish at the U SPORTS National Championships this past fall — a placing that helped the U of S Huskies secure fifth in the team standings — she was named to her first national team and was set to compete at the FISU World University Cross Country Championships in Portugal on March 12 before Canada announced it would not sent a team.

Though Harrison has thrown herself into cross-country and track over the past three years, running hasn’t always been her lone athletic pursuit. She played competitive hockey into her late teens, including two years as a forward on the Weyburn Goldwings Midget AAA hockey team.

Kaitlyn Harrison competes in the steeple chase. Photo by Louis Christ.
Kaitlyn Harrison competes in the steeplechase. Photo by Louis Christ.

These days she still plays hockey in an adult-safe league, but spends more time in spikes than skates. Harrison says she chose to focus on running after high school because she knew she wouldn’t have time to pursue two sports at a high level while also attending classes.

In her first year as a Huskie, Harrison had an exceptional season that capped off with a 13th-place finish at the U SPORTS National Championships — the highest of any of her teammates and the second-best finish by a rookie in the race. Her 2020 season was put on hold because of COVID-19 before she stormed into the 2021 season in fighting form.

Cross country running is known for taking place during inclement weather and it’s not uncommon for runners to battle through snow in sub-zero temperatures, particularly in the U SPORTS Championships, which happen at the end of November. Harrison says those conditions are all part of what makes cross country fun.

“I like racing in the cold. It’s just like another obstacle that I get to overcome and it’s supposed to be tough,” she says.

In addition to cross country, Harrison also runs indoor and outdoor track, specializing in the steeplechase and longer events such as the 1,500 and 3,000 metres. While training and competing in cross country and track look very different — and the track can involve long stretches indoors during the winter months — she says she loves both.

“I can’t say I have a favourite. I enjoy each of them when I’m doing them,” she says.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Canada will not be sending a team to the FISU World University Cross Country Championships.