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Cross-country star Stefania Salzer never stopped running toward her goals

For Mohawk Mountaineers cross-country alumna Stefania Salzer, hard work and dedication is the name of her game. 

Salzer immigrated to Canada from Budapest when she was 9, along with her mother and three sisters. While growing up had its challenges, she said that she is thankful for it. 

“I got the opportunity of being an athlete here where I wouldn’t have back home,” Salzer said. 

When she was 18, Salzer enrolled in Mohawk College’s Practical Nursing program. She said that for her, having the skills to save someone’s life was like having a superpower.

Around this time, Salzer first got into recreational running. She said that back then, she never had a “racing mindset” and would just run for fun. While she contemplated joining the cross-country team, she never tried out. 

Fast-forward to the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though varsity athletics at the college was heavily affected by the pandemic, many teams were still looking for new athletes. Salzer had returned to the college as a mature student and this time, she was ready to try out. 

“I actually saw an Instagram post from the Mohawk Mountaineers [for cross-country] and they were like ‘If you want to join, message us’ and I was like ‘That sounds fun. Sure, I’ll join’,” Salzer remembered. 

Salzer created a training regimen to prepare herself for the tryouts happening in the summer. She quickly made a mark on cross-country coach David Hopton. 

“Her motivation quickly stood out to me, with her running more miles than anyone on the team,” Hopton remembered. 

Her hard work paid off, with Salzer making the cross-country team in August 2021. She said that after she found out, she had to double-check with the coach to confirm she had made it.  Salzer said making the team was one of the best feelings ever. 

Salzer learned much in the two years she ran for the Mountaineers. There were many differences between being a recreational solo runner and someone who runs competitively as part of a team. 

A woman with blonde hair runs up a hill with a lighthouse in the background.
Salzer has competed in many places across the country, such as in Calgary at St. Mary’s University.

One of the first big changes was getting used to the scoring system used in competition. The system is similar to sports like golf, where the lower the score, the better it is.

Racers are also scored as a team rather than as individuals. 

“If you get first place, that’s one point,” Salzer said. “If someone within your team gets 10th place, that’s 10 points.” 

Salzer said she did far better during her first run than she had originally expected. Being around a decade older than many of her competitors, Salzer said she took pride in the fact that even though she was not first, she was certainly not last.

Her success as an athlete was thanks not only to her own dedication, but also to the support of her coaches and teammates. 

“Being an athlete with the Mountaineers makes you realize your potential,” Salzer said. 

Salzer accomplished a lot in her time with the Mountaineers. 

One of her proudest achievements was bringing home the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) bronze medal during the provincial competition in 2022. The year before, Mohawk narrowly missed the podium, finishing in fourth place. 

Three women run in a grassy field with trees in the background.
The Mountaineer’s third-place victory at OCAA Thunder Bay 2022 won the college its first women’s cross-country medal since 1996.

“It’s my proudest accomplishment because we worked so hard for it,” Salzer said. “A lot of us were graduating, so we were like ‘We need this medal.’” 

Salzer also helped to create the new image of the Mohawk Mountaineers through her role as an athletics ambassador. The role had her meeting over Zoom with other athletics ambassadors and representatives of the college to decide on key elements of the Mountaineers rebranding, such as the logo. 

“We played a big role in the rebranding of the Mohawk Mountaineers,” Salzer said. “I feel like I was kind of the person in between the Mohawk cross-country team, the athletes and the athletics department at Mohawk.” 

Salzer currently works as a cardiovascular intensive care nurse, where she helps to take care of patients who recently underwent open heart surgery. Despite the demanding schedule of nursing, Salzer never stopped running. She said that because of her experience in varsity athletics, she can balance both her career and her athletic life.

A blonde woman wearing nurses scrubs and a blue surgical mask stands in an empty operating room.
Salzer coordinates her running schedule with her work schedule so she can train six times a week.

“Varsity helps make you a well-rounded person and helps prepare you for life outside of school,” Salzer said. 

Always looking toward bigger and better things, Stefania Salzer is now preparing to get her master’s degree in nursing while training for the Boston Marathon. Salzer’s advice is to never stop going forward. 

“Don’t be afraid to have big goals for yourself,” Salzer said. “Because once you get there, you’ll look back and you’re going to laugh.” 



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