By: Kajan Thiruthanikasalam
SCARBOROUGH, ONT.- Another sweep was in order for October's edition of the Centennial Colts Athletes of the Month presented to you by: St Louis Bar and Grill.
This time, it was Suleiman Sualim and Nicole Fiorini who took home the male and female honours, respectively, as both athletes represented Centennial's cross-country team.
Read below for a deeper look into the two athletes.
Suleiman Sualim, who currently is taking the project management post-graduate program, came into this cross-country season as an athlete who had never experienced any sort of post-secondary action in the sport, as he was a walk-on earlier last month.
"I came in with no expectations; it was a blank slate," Sualim said. "I just wanted an opportunity to join a varsity team and hope that my past experience would be enough to make the team. It was and I got the spikes and ran with it."
"He improved each meet (that) he ran at this year," John Stevenson, Colts Head Coach, said who was impressed by how quickly Sualim picked up on the sport.
In his first race as a member of the Centennial Colts, he finished in 38th place (32:20) at the Fanshawe Invitational on Sept. 15. And in the race prior to provincials, Sualim finished in 62nd at the Centennial Invitational at Ashtonbee Campus (32:49.9).
His personal best finish in terms of placement came at the Seneca Invitational in King City, Ont., when he finished in 34th place with a time of 32:36.
At first glance, Sualim's result at the 2018 OCAA Provincial Championships, hosted by Centennial College, doesn't really stand out as he finished in 55th place with a time of 31:52.8. Until you realize that he ran one of those laps wearing just one shoe!
"Suleiman was spiked early in the race which ripped his shoe off," Stevenson said. "He continued, luckily finding his missing shoe on the next lap."
"It was a real conundrum," Sualim said, laughing, of the ordeal. "Do I go pick it up and lose time or do I keep running?"
Sualim was the second Centennial male runner to finish the race despite the malfunction just behind Marcelo Flores, who finished four spots ahead of him. Better yet, his time at provincials was a personal best for him this season.
If there was one thing that Sualim wishes would have been different, it would be having the opportunity to compete at nationals. But aside from that, he says it has been a wonderful journey and is forever grateful for the opportunity as he feels like he was part of a family.
"It wouldn't have been possible without the coaches and my fellow teammates that force me to become better and run better," Sualim said. "It was really a fun atmosphere and it made me feel like I was home."
As for his reaction to potentially being named the Male Athlete of the Month, Sualim says,"It's a huge honour to be nominated only because I've had to think back to the season where I had to persevere through. It's a real validation of me being recognized for my achievements.
Earning Female Athlete of the Month Honours was something Nicole Fiorini would have never even expected, let alone even think of.
The five-foot-eight Fiorini, from Schomberg, Ont., suffered a concussion while covering MLB spring training camp in March as part of her post-graduate program, which is sports journalism. But that wasn't even the worst of it.
Fiorini suffered from thoracic outlet syndrome and was forced to use blood thinners, which eventually led to undergoing vascular surgery in June. But complications during surgery nearly led to her dying at the operating table.
Fast forward to now.
"Nicole had a huge school workload and still was able to train," John Stevenson, Colts Head Coach, said in awe. "Despite ALL these hardships, Nicole's leadership, positivity and grace shined through! She is definitely worthy of October's female athlete of the month."
"I know being a student athlete is pretty difficult because of just trying to balance doing school work, and commuting down for athletics," Fiorini said. "For me to just be trying my best and for someone to recognize that is pretty special."
Fiorini made her debut at the OCAA Invitational, hosted by the Colts at Ashtonbee Campus, where she finished 42nd. And just this past Saturday, she competed at the OCAA XC Provincial Championships where she improved her standing after each lap and finished 48th overall, which was the best finish for the Colts women during the race.
Fiorini noted that other athletes would start off guns blazing to start off the race but says that that approach would have overwhelmed her so she goes at her own pace.
"I would rather go out a little bit slower and then overtake people," Fiorini said. "Just using that momentum to push forward. And that worked well for me."
Fiorini started running in 2006 when she was 10 years old, joining her dad at a running club and says the sport has taught her mainly about time management. As for her time at Centennial, she says that she has been grateful for how she has been treated.
"I met with Darcy (Brioux), Kwame (Nelson) and John over the summer and I was so happy to hear about how accommodating they would be. They were just happy to have me on the team," Fiorini said. "I didn't even know if they wanted me (at first) because I couldn't give them my full potential."
"Their support was really awesome and I wish I can do it all over again."
Congratulations to both Sualim and Fiorini for earning the Centennial Colts Athletes of the Month presented to you by: St Louis Bar and Grill once again as their continued perseverance highlighted the cross-country season from the Colts.
Special thanks to our partners, St. Louis Bar and Grill, Scarborough. Both athletes will receive a gift certificate to its location at 55 Town Centre Court, Suite #101.