by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
Both of Anna Van Der Giessen's grandmothers were nurses.
In fact, it was only recently that one of them retired at the age of 75.
So, it is no real surprise that the Bezanson, Alberta native is enrolled in Bachelor of Science Nursing at Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves.
With a heavy school work load, which makes nurses nurses, Van Der Giessen has also taken on the chore of being part of the Wolves' cross country and indoor track teams for the second year-in-a-row.
Asked about the balancing of the role of a student/athlete, the 19 year-old Van Der Giessen responded: "It is enjoyable as since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be a nurse. I like how we get to have clinical experience and go to the hospital and actually learn on the job. It is only four years and you have to learn so much...so they push a lot of information to you and that is the hard part."
A three-year member of the girls basketball team at Peace Wapiti Academy, she also dabbled in track and field during her high school years.
"I ran track in Grade 10 and Grade 12 but not Grade 11 because we did not have a team," recalls Van Der Giessen. "I basically ran the 800 metre and 1,500 metre. Here (Grande Prairie and region) I did OK but at the (Alberta Schools Athletic Association) provincials the best I did was 8th in the 800 metre when I was in Grade 12."
Enrolling at Grande Prairie Regional College in 2017-2018, she decided not to try out for her first love, basketball, but cross country as it did not have the same "less of a time commitment."
"At the beginning, it (cross country) was hard as I had only ran the odd cross country race in junior high and high school. It was a shocker how much running you had to do.
"I had hip problems due to not being used to running so much. But it cleared up after a while with physio."
Of not playing competitive basketball at the post-secondary level, she replied: "When I was watching (the Wolves) play, it hit home that I was playing no more and it was sad. But then I thought, "I was still a member of a team with (Wolves cross country and indoor track)." I had fallen in love with running and that is my sport now."
During her two years of Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference cross country, Van Der Giessen's best finish in the 6 kilometre distance has been a 10th place clocking of 25:21, September 22, 2018 on the Wolves home course
Last year at the 2017-2018 ACAC Indoor Track Provincials, held in in Edmonton and hosted by MacEwan University Griffins, she was 8th in the 600 metre (1:49.75) and 10th in the 1,000 metre (3:22.45).
At the recent Running Room Grand Prix #1 held January 26, 2019, once again hosted by the Griffins, Van Der Giessen had an impressive 1,000 m second (3:19.44) place performance in an 18-runner field.
Griffins' Ember Large was first at 3:05.82.
Van Der Giessen also joined teammates Brittney Duvall, Krista Frey and Maria Houle to place third in the 4 x 400 metre relay with a time of 4:38.67.
MacEwan was first at 4:28.65.
Of her indoor running strategy, she said: "It's not like outdoors as you have to do more laps because it is only a 200 metre track (compared to an outdoor 400 metre distance). It is not about going as fast as you can. The key is to truly understand how to pace yourself and I am still working on that and getting better. You just can't go all out at the beginning."
She said she is a fan of Olympian runner Usain Bolt, "My favourite Olympian of all time" and looks to former Wolves' runner Mirelle Martens (2014 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Cross Country women's gold medalist).
"She (Martens) is an amazing runner, so I have always looked up to her. She sometimes comes back and she will run with us. She is always training hard and has gone pretty far with running. The example she sets is really cool."
Of her own future: "I would like to work with Doctors Without Borders or even go north to some isolated communities to do nursing. That would be interesting."