Tract Star Reaches Hall of Fame
Story by Michael Seguin
Olympic athlete Noelle Montcalm was initially drawn to track and field because of the solitary nature of the sport.
“I did other sports growing up,” Noelle explains. “But I just kind of gravitated towards track and field. Mostly because of the individual aspect of it. The individual challenge. There’s nobody you can really blame out there but yourself. It’s your own lane, out there. There’s nothing else you can look towards but yourself.”
That said, despite the loneliness that comes with your own lane, Noelle notes how important it is having a team in your corner.
“At the end of the day, it is just me out there on the track,” Noelle states. “But I wouldn’t be where I am without the people behind me. I think that started in university. The Lancer program was an incredible team atmosphere. The team that surrounded me—the atmosphere—really developed me into the person I am today, both on and off the track.”
Noelle continued competing throughout her time at the university, running for the Lancers for five years.
“I progressed well through the people around me at the University of Windsor,” Noelle states. “And once I graduated, I just said, ‘Hey, this could be something I’m pretty good at. I could even compete for my country.’”
After graduating, Noelle continued training with her Lancers coach, Don Garrod.
“Through the university I competed at the 60 meter hurdles and the 300 meter hurdles,” Noelle explains. “And then, when I did graduate from the track in 2011—I still had another year of school—I sat down with my coach. He said, ‘You’ve achieved this success in the 100 meter hurdles. Let’s see what you can do in the 400 meter hurdles!’ So, we decided to go for it.”
Noelle graduated from the University of Windsor’s Nursing program in 2012. While she was eager to begin her profession, her lane continued to call to her.
“2013 was purely an athletic endeavor,” Noelle admits. “I wanted to see what just focusing on the track would give me. And I was fortunate enough to make the World Student Games and the World Championship Team, both in the same year. So, it was beneficial to put all my focus on just my sport so I could see where it would take me.”
In 2014, Noelle worked hard enough to win a spot on the national team at the Commonwealth Games.
Shortly thereafter, Noelle saw the potential for the Olympics on the horizon.
“It was always something that I set my sights on,” Noelle explains. “It was always a goal of mine. So, I just continued to progress. And then, when 2016 rolled around, it was go time!”
In order to qualify as an Olympian, Noelle had to achieve the infamous ‘Olympic standard.’
“The Olympic standard is determined by the World Governing Body of Athletics,” Noelle states. “But, in 2016, I had not yet achieved the standard yet that season. It came down to my last qualification opportunity at the National Championships in Edmonton. It was the final race, and it was do or die! That was my last opportunity.”
Noelle ended up winning the National Championships and achieving the elusive Olympic standard all in the same race.
“I booked my ticket to Rio immediately after,” Noelle laughs. “It was all maybe a little more dramatic than I would have wanted, but it got the job done nonetheless!”
Noelle competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, taking part in the 400 meter hurdles and the 4×400 meter relay.
“I remember walking into the stadium for that first race,” Noelle states. “I ended up running four times around that track. I made the semi-finals in the 400 hurdles. And we made the final in the 4×400 relay. I came into the games wanting to enjoy every opportunity, every moment, every experience. And I truthfully believe that I did. I think that made the experience as a whole that much greater. It was such an incredible experience.”
Most significantly, Noelle was able to bring her support network with her to the Olympic Games.
“My family was there,” Noelle explains. “My coach was there. They were all supporting me. After my first race, I didn’t know where they were seated in the stadium. But I just wanted to wave to them so badly. I can’t thank them enough for supporting me along the way.”
After the Olympics, Noelle continued her training, dividing her time between her training and her nursing career.
“I competed in some championships while training for the next Olympics,” Noelle explains. “I made the World Championship team in 2017 and the NACAC Championships in 2018. I just continued to progress. I was kind of wondering about my expiration date in the sport. I’ve been doing it a long time. And I wanted to move on with my nursing career. But I still enjoy the process of it all.”
Noelle was planning on competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in Noelle’s plans.
“There’s no real season this year,” Noelle admits. “But, this year has been a huge reinvigoration for me. I’m still moving forward. Hopefully, we can all compete in 2021 Olympics.”
However, there is a silver lining. Recently, Noelle was inducted into the Lancers Alumni Sports Hall of Fame.
“I had just started working at the University of Windsor’s clinic,” Noelle recalls. “And then, somebody from Sport and Rec called me and I found it odd that he knew to call me at the university and not my cell. And he told me that I was nominated for induction. I was kind of taken aback.”
Although this fall’s induction ceremony has been cancelled, the university is currently developing some videos and interviews to celebrate the new additions to the Hall of Fame.
“Being a Lancer was five years of incredible memories,” Noelle states. “I loved being able to represent the university. Being honoured like this is so special.”
And when recounting her success, Noelle returns to the people in her corner.
“The belief that those people have in me helps instill the belief in myself,” Noelle states. “You get down on yourself if one little thing doesn’t go right, so it’s nice to have those people being your cheerleaders, supporting you and encouraging you. It goes a long way.”