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Canadian runner takes to Texas life

March 4, 2003

By Hannah Lodwick

Stephanie Bennett starts work at 6:30 a.m. five days a week. She gets to sleep in on the weekends when she reports at 7:30 a.m. And that's just morning practice.

To some, Bennett may not look like a runner, let alone a scholarship-winning collegiate athlete. Her athletic height and build look like they proved more of an asset to her years of playing soccer and basketball. After seeing Bennett run, though, one finds that there is more to her than what meets the eye.

The senior from Vancouver, British Columbia, runs cross country and track for Baylor like she does everything else, with resolve to complete her task whatever the circumstances.

'She has definitely learned over the last four years how to adapt to the heat in August,' Todd Harbour, Bennett's track coach, said. 'I do not know that she has ever gotten used to it. I remember when she first came here, watching her do track workouts. Her face would get so red.'

Bennett said even with the heat, the different training mentality in Texas proved the most difficult thing to adjust to when she arrived.

'We do a lot more junk miles than at my track club back home,' she said. 'The idea in B.C. was to train fast to run fast. We'd either have the day off or do some kind of workout. It was hard for me to adapt to the new system, and I wasn't sure if I believed in it. One time Erin [Dixon, a teammate] said to me, 'Steph you're not in Canada anymore. Stop complaining.' I run a lot more now than I did then.'

Besides adapting to the temperature change, Bennett's three roommates said living with a Canadian has taught them more about Americans than living with their fellow citizens. Bennett never fails to point out environmental hazards, wasteful practices and the disappointing number of inactive and unhealthy people in Texas.

'If it weren't for Steph, I wouldn't feel guilty about every little piece of paper I throw away,' said Leah Marbach, a Kingwood senior and Bennett's roommate. 'There's no way we'd recycle every scrap of cardboard we have if Stephanie didn't live here.'

Bennett adds a refreshing, non-Texan element to a region steeped in Southern culture. Her roommates said her comments while watching President Bush's State of the Union address, and on U.S. policy in general, force them to evaluate U.S. decisions from a different perspective.

'Before I came to the United States I thought Canada was pretty well known, pretty active in the world,' Bennett said. 'When I'm in Texas, though, I barely hear any Canadian news. We get a lot of U.S. news at home, but it's not the same both ways. When you guys had your elections in 2000, I missed our prime minister elections because there was no media coverage here.'

On the other hand, Bennett said she likes studying in the United States because she likes living in the center of everything.

'I like being in the states because you can get so many things you can't at home,' she said. 'It's great to be able to get so many cable channels and have lots of nice stores. It's a luxury to have money for sports programs, too. At home, we have to raise our own money for equipment and uniforms.'

Living in Texas exposed Bennett to another thing she loves -- Mexican food. She virtually never had it in Vancouver.

'We don't have any Mexican restaurants at home,' Bennett said. 'It's all Chinese or ethnic stuff. When I first came I absolutely loved Mexican food. I still really like it.'

To all but the most observant viewers, Bennett looks and acts American, but subtle differences do appear. Marbach and Tara Puglia, a Plano senior, tease her when she says certain words like garberator (for disposal), zed (for the letter 'z') or PASS-ta (for pasta).

'When she's at home in B.C., she picks up an accent really quick,' Marbach said. 'I know she hates talking like an American, but she loses the accent quicker and quicker every time she comes back here.'

Canadian citizenship aside, Marbach predicts Bennett will return to Canada after she graduates. Bennett loves the ocean, and she said she misses having winter weather.

Still, Bennett could surprise her friends yet again.

'There are a lot of nice places to live in the U.S.,' Bennett said. 'I could live here. I would just need a reason to stay.'