Plenty of peaks for Ross Proudfoot
by Randy Pascal
Inevitably, Ross Proudfoot will encounter some challenges. The nature of track & field, especially at an elite level, gives rise to the peaks and
valleys that accompany competing with the best in the country, some of the best in the world, on a regular basis.
Yet at 19 years of age, Proudfoot has certainly seen far more ups than downs. The Lively native and graduate of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School has
enjoyed another solid season in his second year at Guelph University, springboarding from the collegiate team directly to his summer season that has
already produced some eye-popping results.
After rewriting the local high-school record book at the middle distances, Proudfoot has lowered his standard in the 1500m to 3:41.86 as he prepares for
the Canadian Olympic Trials in Calgary.
Back in Northern Ontario for a short stint earlier this summer, Proudfoot looked to put it all into perspective. "It's right about now where I realize
that my focus is more for the summer season," he said. "I'm kind of aiming at maybe doing this professionally out of school."
With that in mind, the well-spoken young man who excels at a variety of distances, by normal standards, is likely to narrow his aim just a touch. "It's
kind of when you move away from collegiate that cross-country seems to take a backseat," Proudfoot acknowledged.
"I ran the 1500m and 3km in high school, so I definitely have a little more comfort in those than I would have in other events. But once you leave youth,
the 3000m becomes the 5000m," he said. "The 5km is a bit of a different territory."
"I've only ran a few and mostly as a younger athlete. I would say right now that I'm a 1500m runner." Still, the ability to cross-over is certainly
present and, for middle distance runners, the four-minute mile still holds a certain mystique, despite the international conversion to metric distances.
"The mile is really big in the States still," said Proudfoot. "The four-minute mile is still the one big thing you want to do. I probably won't get a
mile (race) in this season, but as soon as there's a mile that kind of fits the schedule, looks pretty good and is probably going to go sub-four, I'll
probably just hop in to get that check-mark off the list," he added.
Will three more years of university competition still ahead, jet-setting from one meet to another occurs only for a relatively brief summer period,
right now for Proudfoot, with some inherant pitfalls that accompany the schedule.
"You come into a competition and you're a well-tuned machine," he said. "You do a bit of travel, you want to make sure on the other end that nothing is
jammed up or tight. Once you arrive, just staying on a routine is key, staying as comfortable as you can before a race is key."
Proudfoot's rise to prominence within the Canadian middle distance elite has been somewhat meteoric, with a visit back home providing a nice base to become
grounded once again, allowing some reflection on just how far he has come.
"I haven't really run as a home base here since high school," he admitted. "Getting out the door now, it seems like the 60 or 70 minute runs are so easy,
the loops that you thought were long are so short. That's just growth, more miles - it's second nature now."
While the moniker of "Olympic hopeful" can often be tossed around without a whole lot of thought, Proudfoot has clearly earned the name-plate. Recently
named to the Canadian U-23 track & field team that will compete in Mexico at the 2012 North American, Central America and Carribean (NACAC) U-23
Championships, Proudfoot admits that the reality of his times is starting to hit home.
"This year, being an Olympic year, has kind of brought that into focus, especially being in the group I am with," Proudfoot said. The local product, who
first experienced track & field success as a member of the Jessie Hamilton Public School team, transitions with Guelph coach Dave Scott-Thomas
to his summer program with the Speed River Track & Field Club, home to some of the country's top middle distance runners.
"I started the season with a goal of 3:41 (1500m)," said Proudfoot. "So to open with that, it gets you thinking. Let's try and go sub 3:40 and if you get
sub 3:40, well 3:38 is the Olympic "B" standard."
While all of this might seem like pretty heady stuff for a teenager only a couple of years removed from SDSSAA competition, Proudfoot maintains a
wonderfully sensible perspective, one that is apparent at various stages of the conversation.
"Occidental (in Los Angeles) was the coolest to watch," Proudfoot suggested. "You're kind of just watching races as you're getting warmed up for your
event. You're an athlete and a fan."
A perspective that should prove extremely helpful as he navigates the peaks, and inevitable valleys, that lurk ahead.