Collegiate Cross Country/Track
Team Canada- Junior Cross Country
University of Louisville Cross Country/Track
Greenall High School
University of Louisville
I grew up on a farm outside of Regina Saskatchewan with my two older brothers and loving parents. I attended Greenall High School, and graduated in 2015. I have always loved sports, and participated in many throughout high school, including volleyball, soccer, cross country, wrestling, badminton, basketball, hockey, and track & field. I had a tough time narrowing my time, focus, and energy on just a few because I enjoyed them all.
In grade 9 I placed 3rd at provincial cross country with minimal training. I decided that if I could do well without much training, I’d like to see what I could do with training. Later that year a couple weeks before track and field provincials I met a man that changed my life. His name was Steve Gersten, and he was the coach of the Queen City Striders. I came to a few practices where he instantly made me feel welcome and a part of the team. He informed me of what some good things to eat prior to competition, to hydrate, and to get a pair of spikes. Looking back now it seems so straight forward, but I didn’t even think about spikes at the time. When I was in grade 9, I competed in provincial track and field and placed 2nd in the 400m and 3000m, and 1st in the 800m, 1500m, and 4x400m relay. It was an incredible two days. From there I trusted Steve’s plan, and vision. He was a mentor, coach, and most importantly a great friend. Together I felt like we could do anything. He believed in me, more than I believed in myself.
The next 3 years, I got gold at all the cross country provincials, and collected another 14 medals in track and field (9 gold, 3 silvers, and 2 bronze). I was a part of Team Sask for the Saskatewan Summer Games, Western Canada Summer Games, and Canada Summer Games. At the 2013 Canada Summer Games I came 8th in the 1500m, and 4th in the 5000m. That following fall I made the Canadian Junior Cross Country Team. The team travelled to Trinidad and Tobago for NACAC (North America, Central America, Caribbean) where I placed 10th overall in the 5km race, and the Canadian Junior woman’s team came first. These experiences are to this day many of my fondest memories. Steve and I grew close, due to Parkinson’s Disease Steve could no longer drive, so a drop off after practice often meant an ice cream stop, or at the minimum a visit at his place. I could expect a call most nights around dinner to talk track. He was motivating, and had big dreams for me.
In grade 11 I started to get recognition from Universities in the states. Steve had prior experience with recruiting visits, so he was able to walk me through the process. I took 3 official visits to Division 1 Universities before picking Louisville, KY to call home. I moved away from home at the age of 17, and I didn’t know a single person in or near the new city. Thankful for technology I kept in touch with my parents, friends, and of course Steve.
His Parkinson’s Disease continued to worsen, and when I came home at Christmas I visited Steve in the hospital, where he was optimistic to get home. I trained under him over my break, and went back to school and track in the spring semester. Just a few weeks before coming home for the summer I got a call saying Steve had passed. It was the hardest time of my life. I had never had someone so close, and so important pass away. To this day I get choked up, thinking of all the memories I shared with him, and all the stories I’d still love to share with him. I went to him for advice, comfort, and confidence. I am extremely grateful for the time I had with Steve, and wish I had more of it.
I just completed my 4th year as a Louisville Cardinal, and graduated with exercise science/pre-med. I have met lifelong friends in University, and made many amazing memories. I can give thanks to the man, Steve Gersten, who truly made this possible.
1. Don’t be afraid to meet new people, you don’t know the impact they will have on your life.
2. Find the people that make you a better person, lift you up, and want to see you succeed, then keep them close.
3. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them.
Aurilla, what a small world it is as I met you over 4 years ago in Balgonie when visiting at your old High-School and we've continued to stay in touch today. I feel fortunate to know you and also excited to share your story, especially to honor your coach, Steve Gersten. Steve sounds like a great man, mentor, coach and friend, and though I wish I could've experienced what he did for you in my own life when I was still playing sports, I feel though that I'm getting a taste of who he is through you (if that makes sense). After reading your story over and over, I'm first of all touched! I was waiting to finish the end and had hopes that your friend was still here with us, but learned otherwise. I'm very sorry about your loss! I'm touched though because throughout everything you share, you always bring up Steve. You give him the credit for believing in you, teaching you, encouraging and guiding you. The impact that Steve had on you is obviously huge and I just wanted to say great job in not only allowing this man to guide you, but also to celebrate all that he did for you. Thanks again for sharing these special moments in life and for your advice that centers around relationships! You never know how people will be able to touch our lives, but without taking a chance to get to know others, we only miss out! Lastly, I want you to know Aurilla that I am encouraged by Steve and will do the best I can to be more like him by helping to guide and to encourage others who need help. I can't promise that I'll know all the answers, but I can promise to help make connections to people that do! I wish you the best as you begin your journey out of Collegiate Sports and know you will do great in whatever path you choose. Gary Rogers