Olivia Ouellette, left, helps lead stretches for the Poland cross country team before practice on Wednesday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

POLAND — Poland senior Olivia Ouellette’s 10th-place finish at the 2018 Class B state meet makes her the sixth-ranked returning runner in the classification this season. 

Ouellette’s focus is on putting everything she has into this season. Her motivation comes in part from her mother, who runs iron man races and who is in remission from cancer that she was diagnosed with two years ago.

“My mom did an iron man this year, which is super cool, so she’s kind of my motivation for everything,” Ouellette said. “We work out a lot together. All the time. If I don’t want to work out one day she’ll say, ‘Come on, Olivia, you have to do it.’

“She had cancer two years ago and almost died. That’s her calling, I guess. She is just going to stick with it and do what she loves. She loves it so I’ve been sticking with it. She’s in remission, it’s great. I do a lot of runs with her.”

Ouellette began running in the Panther Track Club in Poland when she was 7 years old. That’s where she first ran with teammate Mia Turkington.

Initially, Ouellette focused primarily on the sprints. She eventually transitioned to race walking for a few years and won a couple of state titles before giving up the event when she was about 14 years old. That’s when she began devoting her time to distance running. 

While Ouellette runs with her mother often, she also runs a lot with her best friend Turkington. Turkington finished in 76th at the Class B state meet in 2018. 

“We have been running since Poland track, so forever,” Ouellette said. “We do all the sports together, and we literally push each other at practice, which helps tremendously. I think if I didn’t have her I wouldn’t be where I am today just because we work together so much.”

Turkington and Ouellette run together every day at practice, on the weekends, and in the offseason. 

“I push her and she pushes me,” Ouellette said. “Sometimes if I’m not having a good meet she’ll be with me, which helps so much. We almost have our own language when we are racing.”

Turkington uses her best friend as a sort of carrot that she is trying to catch.

“She definitely has helped,” Turkington said. “She’s a good motivator because she’s faster, so I’ll see her and say, ‘I need to catch up to her.’ She’s just really helpful. When we run, we’ll, like, see a girl and then kind of nod at each other. We have code words for each other.”

Poland coach Sean Galipeau can see the strides his seniors have made because of one another. 

Olivia Ouellette, center, runs with her teammates on the Poland Regional High School cross country team. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Training-wise, I think it is nice for them because they have someone that they can run with,” Galipeau said. “They definitely mutually benefit from it.”

This year, Ouellette is focusing on being all-in.

“It’s my senior year so I definitely want to keep running,” Ouellette said. “Just go out there and have fun because it’s my last year running cross country. I want to put everything I have into races and practices because practice is where you get better.”

This year’s regional and state meets will be held at Twin Brook, a notoriously hilly course.

Poland has one home meet at their course in Minot, which has an abundance of hills, but the Knights also run three times this season at Lake Region, which is full of fields. However, Galipeau makes sure he starts every week with a Monday hill workout.

“Twin Brook is definitely a hilly course,” Ouellette said. “I love Belfast. We are actually running Festival of Champions (at Belfast) this year for the first time. … Twin Brook is definitely going to be fun, I’ll definitely get my hill workout. I like flat but everyone has to run the hills so it’s no different.”

Hills are near the top of the priority list for Ouellette, but her primary emphasis this summer and fall has been making sure she has enough energy for the end of the race. 

“Last year, I feel like I went out too fast and didn’t really have anything at the end,” Ouellette said. “I’ve been focusing on having negative splits this year and starting slower so that I have more gas in the tank at the end.”

This fall, Ouellette has already run 20:37 at the Dan Doors Invitational at Lake Region, earning a second-place finish. She feels ready to go and credits a lot of her success over the past four years to her coach. 

“Mr. Galipeau has been an amazing coach and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Ouellette said. “He runs with us, he pushes you to your limits and knows when you’re tired and ready for practice to be done. He doesn’t push you too hard and that’s a good thing because I don’t burn out.”

Galipeau is just as excited and confident as Ouellette this season.

“She has the mindset, especially when it comes to races, that she is super competitive but also intuitive in what she wants to do,” Galipeau said. “She came in a freshman and she was 27th in the state. She’s just steady, steady in seasons and over the course of her career. The bigger the competition the better she is.”

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