Here’s a Snapple-cap style fact. It takes the same time (roughly 44 hours) to drive to Ottawa, Ontario from Stockton, California as it does to make the same trek from Coquitlam, British Columbia.
Saira Purhar, one country-crossing distance runner for the University of the Pacific, is on track to make a name for herself in all three.
Purhar, a native of Coquitlam, and a member of the Tigers’ cross country and track and field teams, recently took fifth in the women’s 5,000 meter race in the U20 division of the Canadian Track and Field Championships.
The soon-to-be sophomore recorded a time of 18 minutes, 39.41 seconds in Ottawa, with her family and Pacific coach Josh Jones on hand to watch her compete.
Evidently, Coquitlam — a town nestled just above the U.S.-Canada Border on the west coast — is roughly 15 hours due north of Stockton. So when Purhar, who earned recognition as MVP in grade 11 (junior year for those stateside) and most outstanding senior for the Coquitlam Cheetahs, set her sights on competing for a Division I college, Pacific made sense.
It made even more when Purhar made a recruiting trip to Stockton. She said she fell in love with the school and the beauty of the campus, and was enthralled by the energy of her future teammates and coaching staff.
As a freshman, Purhar set a mark of 19:36 in the 5K in cross country, and went on to contribute for the track and field team in the spring. Her marks in the 5K on the track met a qualifier for the championships in Canada, and wheels were in motion from there.
Purhar took a week off after the track season, sort of. She said she did a series of cross-training workouts to get a mental break from running, then began building for Ottawa. It culminated in this past weekend’s championships, which Purhar said was a blast both as an athlete and spectator.
“It was a really cool experience to begin with,” Purhar said. “I love the sport a lot, and I do follow it. I saw (Canadian Olympians) Andre De Grasse and Damian Warner. It was really cool.”
The U20 5,000 meter final was on the final day of the championships, with a 10 a.m. start. Purhar said the process leading into it was extraordinary, and it led to a tough but enjoyable race.
“I had never been to a race on a national stage at all,” Purhar said. “Getting to run with such a high-caliber group, and having coach and my parents be there, that was amazing.”
The next step for Purhar, and the rest of the Tigers, is the first meet of the cross-country season Sept. 1 in Hawaii. Pacific has a reputation to uphold in Honolulu, returning as defending champions of the Big Wave Invitational.
“We went 1-2-3 in the placing with Jasmine (Gonzales), Emma (Winkler) and me,” Purhar said. “It was such a cool way to kick things off.”
Around that time last year, Purhar was in the first weeks of living in Stockton which, as one can imagine, is a bit different than Coquitlam. She said she loves the sunny weather and the palm trees scattered around town, and she’s got a number of favorite Mexican restaurants.
Don’t get her wrong. Her hometown is surrounded by mountains and evergreen trees, and she’s sure to make a trip to White Spot with her parents for a burger when she’s back home.
Stockton just has one important thing that home currently doesn’t.
“In-N-Out,” she said.
Burger battles notwithstanding, Purhar said she was mostly excited to get back to racing and competing with her team. The team has great potential, she said, and she can’t wait to see what the season holds.
As she moves into her sophomore season, Purhar said she can’t help but reflect on what the first year-plus with Pacific has led to. She’s traveled around and between countries to compete in a sport she’s passionate about, a considerable leap from back in grade 11 when she began running purely for the chance to compete.
A few years ago, she had no idea that this would or could happen. It has, and it’s something she doesn’t take for granted.
“It wasn’t until I got here that I realized how lucky I was to be going here,” Purhar said. “It’s been a big confidence builder, and it’s something that I became really passionate about.
“It’s something that gave me a lot of opportunities. That I get to do this while I study is so amazing.”
Contact reporter Nick Woodard at (209) 546-8272 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@nwoodard25.