Wall of Distinction 2024: Cross country, indoor track star Trofimenkoff among most decorated Griffins

Wall of Distinction 2024: Cross country, indoor track star Trofimenkoff among most decorated Griffins

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – For 49 years, athletes have proudly worn the Griffin as members of MacEwan's athletics teams.

Over that time, the best of the best have emerged, worthy of recognition for the ages.

For the first time in 20 years, MacEwan Athletics is reviving its Wall of Distinction program, which recognizes top athletes, coaches, teams, and builders for their exemplary contributions to the success of the Griffins.

We're proud to induct four new members of the 2024 Wall of Distinction class during MacEwan Athletics' annual awards banquet on April 6.

Throughout the week, we're unveiling this class one by one.

Tuesday: Scott Reid, men's hockey

Today: Vanessa Trofimenkoff, women's cross country & indoor track

Thursday: TBA

Friday: TBA


One of the most decorated student-athletes in MacEwan Athletics history, Vanessa Trofimenkoff's trophy cabinet is filled to the brim after an illustrious four-year career as a Griffins cross country and indoor track competitor.

A U SPORTS second team all-star, Canada West first team all-star and two-time CCAA All Canadian in cross country, Trofimenkoff was also ACAC Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and MacEwan Female Athlete of the Year over her tenure with the Griffins.

As a result, she will be inducted into the Griffins Wall of Distinction in the Class of 2024.

"I was not expecting this at all, but I am so honoured to be receiving this award," said Trofimenkoff. "It's such a big deal. I'm so thankful that (Athletics Director) Joel Mrak is reviving the program. It's such a nice thing to remember the athletes that came before. I'm super thankful for that."

Trofimenkoff's Griffins tenure spanned two different eras of the cross-country program, starting in the CCAA in 2012 and finishing in U SPORTS in 2016 after MacEwan earned entry into Canada West in 2014.

Vanessa Trofimenkoff races in a pack at the 2015 U SPORTS national championship. She finished 29th and was named a Canada West second team all-star (Linda Miller photo).

Her first big highlight was being part of the Griffins' women's cross country team that captured the CCAA national team championship in 2012. Trofimenkoff, who was a rookie that season, finished fourth to teammate Alex Gordichuk's third place finish, while Isabella Englert (15th), Robyn Taylor (20th) and Elisabeth Derksen (32nd) combined to give MacEwan its only national title in cross country.

"I didn't realize how big of a deal it was to win a national championship," said Trofimenkoff. "Looking back on it now, it was just such a great moment.

"That was such a good team," she added. "Coming in, I was new to the team, and I was young. I guess I didn't really know what to expect from being a student-athlete and that team was so supportive and just so great to run with. They definitely guided me through my journey in my first year, so I'm really appreciative of that."

It really set the table for her career as a year later, Trofimenkoff raced to a CCAA silver medal, narrowly losing to teammate Lesley Koopman in an unforgettable race to the line. She was named MacEwan Female Athlete of the Year at the end of the season.

"That was also a big one," she said. "I was just so honoured to be receiving that award. I don't know if it was my first or second year, but I was super new to being a student-athlete. I just wasn't expecting it. It was definitely a special moment."

MacEwan joined Canada West after that and Trofimenkoff again soared to new heights, becoming the first and only Griffins cross country athlete to earn a U SPORTS all-star honour (second team in 2014) and the first of two Canada West first team all-stars the program had before being discontinued in 2021. 

"I was definitely nervous," she said of racing at the U SPORTS Championship in St. John's, Nfld., and finishing 13th in 2014. "It's a big change, for sure. In CCAA there's competition, for sure, but I think the difference is depth. If there were three at the top competing for first in the CCAA, in CIS there were 10 or 15. It's just the depth of competition is a lot more.

"That just made it a lot more nerve-racking, knowing there's a lot more competition."

Vanessa Trofimenkoff is the only Griffins cross country student-athlete to be an all-star in both U SPORTS and the CCAA (Linda Miller photo).

In her final season at MacEwan, she placed 29th at the 2015 U SPORTS Championship with the best 6K time in program history and earned a Canada West second team all-star award.

"It was just one of those races – same as the nationals I was talking about in St. John's when I was 13th," she said of running the 6K in 21:45.1 in Victoria, B.C. "We call it flow when you're in that state where you're not really focusing on 'this is so hard' and 'this hurts.' Everything flows naturally and it just feels good, and it feels right. It was one of those races. 

"Again, I wasn't expecting to run that time, but it was one of those races where everything came together."

A dual threat as an athlete, Trofimenkoff was also dominant on the track, winning six golds, a silver and two bronzes in three ACAC Championships, among multiple other medals in regional competition.

Vanessa Trofimenkoff was named ACAC Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year in 2016 (Linda Miller photo).

A key part of two of MacEwan's dynastic run of five women's indoor track team championships in six years, Trofimenkoff won the ACAC Indoor Track Athlete of the Year in 2015-16.

"That one I remember," she said. "We were racing in the Talisman (Centre) in Calgary and it was so humid in that place because the pool is just on the other side of the track. I think I had to run like five races that weekend, which was just a grind to do. But it was so much fun. 

"The group of girls we had was so great and supportive. They all did really well, as well, and we just worked so well together as a team. That stands out. I remember winning that championship with them and it was so much fun."

Trofimenkoff won individual golds in the women's 3000, women's 1000 and women's 600 that weekend, while combining with Amanda Ntiamoah, Hannah Leggatt and Chanelle Gagne to win the women's 4x400 relay.

Even though her last competition was in 2016, Trofimenkoff still holds two ACAC records – fastest 800m (2:16.55 in 2014) and fastest 1,000m (2:54.02 in 2016).

Vanessa Trofimenkoff still holds two ACAC records - for the fastest women's 800 and 1,000m races (Linda Miller photo).

Now into her career as a firefighter in Edmonton, Trofimenkoff still runs, although it's more for fun these days. And the challenge.

She's started running longer distances – half marathons, marathons and 80k. She's even tried to push further than that into ultra territory, distances which aren't for the feint of heart.

"Last summer I attempted a 100 miler, which I wasn't able to finish," she said. "But it was such a great experience to be able to push yourself to a limit where 'I can't do this anymore.' 

"I'm hoping to go back to that distance, but I need to do some work, for sure, training-wise to get there."

Now a member of the Edmonton-based Running Room Athletic Club, whom she represents in races, Trofimenkoff is leaning on her teammates there to help get her through the longer distances.

"I had a group of girls with me (at the 100 mile race) that are on my running team. They were there for me, supporting me. So, after every leg, there's a transition area and they were there. Having them is what I needed to keep me going."

Not unlike being a part of the Griffins, which will always be a huge part of her memories from MacEwan.

"I am definitely glad that I chose to run for MacEwan University," said Trofimenkoff. "The Athletics program was super supportive and the coaches and teammates I had were great. They were just always so supportive. They believed in me. Drew Carver and Linda Miller were my coaches throughout my entire career there. I don't think that I would have accomplished all that I did without them behind me and guiding me."