Genevieve Lalonde en route to the Canadian junior title in the 2000m steeplechase (Claus Andersen) © Copyright
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Hometown hero Lalonde more than pleased with sixth

It's been a big week for Moncton's Genevieve Lalonde. First, on Tuesday morning, she ran a national junior record in the 3,000m steeplechase, posting the fourth-fastest qualifying time with a 10:03.88 and running a PB by nearly half a minute. Call it the power of the home crowd; Lalonde went to the front early, hung on when Ethiopian Bertukan Adama came up to join her, and ran the race like it might have been her final.

Thursday evening in the final, Lalonde pursued a similar strategy, chasing the leaders from the start, but the early running was on World Junior record pace and Lalonde couldn't hang on for long. Still, her aggressive tactics put her in position for another PB, this time a 9:57.74 which will stand not just as a Canadian national junior record but as an Area junior record for the NACAC (North America, Central America, and Caribbean) area. And she did it all right in her hometown; Lalonde is one of the few athletes from New Brunswick on the Canadian team and the only one from Moncton, the 79th largest city in Canada.

Her hometown got behind her, coming out for her preliminary round in unusual numbers for a morning session and doing their best to carry her around the track with their cheers in the final. "Anyplace else in the world, it wouldn't have been the same," Lalonde told reporters after the race, shifting fluidly between French and English according to the questions. "It helped me push a little harder."

"I didn't know this would happen, at the beginning of the year," Lalonde continued. About her new, aggressive racing style, she explained, "We thought I should try something new, so I did and it paid off. I wanted to stay with the Kenyans as long as possible."

Lalonde will double back in the 1500m, with rounds scheduled bright and early on Friday morning. "I hope I'll have some sort of steam left," said Lalonde, who did her best to rush through the mixed zone while still answering every question. "I need to cool down and prepare for the 1500m tomorrow. Tomorrow didn't factor in to tonight at all."

The least surprised person in the stadium might have been Lalonde's coach, Joel Bourgeois. Twenty years ago in Plovdiv, Bourgeois also placed sixth in the World Junior championships 3000m Steeplechase, and went on to represent Canada in that event at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.

"First and foremost," Bourgeois said, "She's here to show she can perform when it counts. It's about position more than time. That race went out close to world-record pace, and the fact that she was able to stay with them as long as she did was the result of several months hard work."

"She did exactly what I did," Bourgeois continued, "the same result. And she has the same potential I did."

Outside of her races, Lalonde has been a minor celebrity this week, with the mayor making a point of watching her qualifying round and all the regional newspapers featuring her photo on the front page. And that was just when she ran 10:03.88.

"Running in a hometown is a big thing," said Bourgeois. "But it's also a big gamble and puts a lot of weight on some very little shoulders. I couldn't be more happy."

Having won that gamble, Lalonde had earned the right to forget there had ever been a downside. "It's a really cool feeling, an incredible feeling," she said, "to be able to do this here in my hometown."