Ella Heeney

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Local MacKillop student Ella Heeney competed in the 2018 International School Sport Federation (ISF) World School Championship (WSC) Cross Country in Paris a few months ago – and came away with the win! For those who watched the race, it was a nail-biter – there was only one second between first and second place. 

Ella wishes to thank a few people who helped her with this amazing achievement – and she’s also thinking ahead to what she’d like to achieve in the future …

Hi Ella. You’re originally from Tamworth, I believe? What brought you to Port Macquarie – and how long have you been a local? 

We moved to Port about three years ago. My family has always wanted to make the move, so when a business opportunity came up – we took it. I’m definitely glad we did; I love it here!

Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and your interests…

I’ve got a brother and sister – Will’s 12 and Soph just turned 21. Mum and Dad own Port Jet, which is pretty cool. 

I’m currently completing Year 12 at MacKillop college this year.

Of all the sports you’ve been involved with throughout your life, what was it about running that most attracted you?

Coming from a sporty family, I grew up playing pretty much every sport possible, so have always loved being active for as long as I can remember. But when I hit probably about 14, I had to make the decision on what sport I wanted to have a real crack at and decided running was what I was best at and loved the most – so I stuck at it.

You competed in the World School Cross Country Championships in Paris on 4th April this year. What were your feelings when you knew you’d been selected for this race – and how did you qualify?

Selections happened out of School Nationals, which were held in Hobart late last year. I actually originally was first reserve for the Australian team going to Paris, so was absolutely over the moon when I got the call up!

And … what a run you had in Paris! Tell us about your amazing victory … what was your time, and how close was the competition?

The race was pretty exciting! It wasn’t a bad place to run either … it made it a heap easier looking up at the Eiffel Tower whilst running! 

It was a pretty close run; I knew that I couldn’t get too caught up in the early stages of the race and had to work my way into it. As I was moving up the field during the second lap, I decided to try and break away, as I was feeling pretty good! 

The Moroccan girl [Meryeme Azrour] came with me, and we swapped the lead a few times and came down to a sprint finish in the home straight! I just managed to take the win in the final few steps and ended up winning by one second. 

I actually went into the race thinking I would be stoked if I got into the top 20, so I was surprised and over the moon to come away with the win!

What was the course at the event like? How far did you have to run – and how much of a challenge was it?

The race was about 4.3 km; it was a pretty flat course, right under the Eiffel Tower! They actually had to add in two little dirt mounds to add in a little cross country factor to the race! 

It did rain pretty much all of the night leading up to the race though, so the course had a layer of slippery mud on top! It definitely was a very different course to anything I’ve ran before.

What was the overall experience in Paris like for you – did you get much downtime, or was most of each day taken up with training?

We had a training camp the week before in London, which was crazy cold! But we got a fair bit of time in Paris and London to sight see and do some tours and shopping, as well as training! It was an awesome experience seeing different parts of the world.

You’ve had to overcome some injuries to get where you are today. That takes some grit – so too does winning a race with so little margin! Who are the people that have been instrumental in helping you along the way?

Yeah, I definitely have quite a few people to thank! Leah from Phyx You Physiotherapy; my coaches, Gary Howard and Ben St Lawrence from Run Crew; and my parents! 

I went into Nationals with an injury and pretty much couldn’t run at all after Nationals, and Leah from Phyx You worked hard with me in my rehab to get me back healthy and strong again.

What’s next for Ella Heeney? What are your future goals/plans?

I have had lots of US college offers for track and field, but I’m planning on having a gap year next year to train and see what I can do with my running.

Thanks Ella. Good luck for the future!

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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