A few months ago, Javier Guitart did not know very much about Canada and had never heard of cross country running. Fast forward only a few months, and the Madrid born student is not only studying at Institut collégial Vincent Massey Collegiate, he recently medalled in a sport he only just started.
The 15 year old originally came to Manitoba through Pembina Trails International Student Program, ISP, hoping to play soccer. Back at home, in Spain, he plays on a high level team. When ISP Director Tess Cordeiro first met him, she instantly knew that Massey and the school’s soccer team would be a great fit.
“I sat with the family around a table in Spain. It was Vincent Massey right away. I knew it would be a great experience. Javier was super keen. He was recruited especially for Vincent Massey.
Once in Winnipeg, Javier’s fast feet and endurance caught the attention of the school’s cross country team.
“The soccer coach is a friend of mine on staff, and he was bragging about his great soccer player. So it was just a matter of talking to him and reassuring him to join,” shared Joanne Goodwin, Vincent Massey’s cross country coach and physical education teacher. “He says, yes, I can do that, when I told him his first race is three kilometers and it builds up to five.”
“The first time I went to a practice and I do it really good, so I went to a race and I do it good. So I stayed running,” said Javier describing his first time on the trail.
Only a few weeks later, his team earned a bronze in the MHSAA Provincial Championships. Crossing the finish line is a moment Javier will not soon forget.
“I was so tired. It was a really hard race. The coach said I need to go faster, so I went faster. So I was like exhausted when I crossed the line. I was out of energy.”
On top of the accomplishment, the exchange student has made some great friends, and enjoyed the opportunity to see more prairie landscapes during the races.
“The things you can see here you can’t see in Spain. The animals, I see deer. It’s flat here, but there are some hills. It’s hard.”
In June, Javier will return to Europe. He looks forward to racing his father, who was once a runner himself. He also plans to share his Pembina Trails experience with other young students looking for a unique adventure.
“They need to come. It is one year and you are going to have a lot of fun. They need to come.”
Learn more about our International Student Program.