The typical NCAA runner begins her career with years of specialized training and high-school experience. But Quakers freshman Ariel Beauregard- Breton is anything but typical.

Regardless of background, the highly touted recruit has been a spark of late, and is coming off one of her best performances of the season just in time for NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday.

Competing on a big stage is nothing new for the Montreal native, who quickly became one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits following her 17th-place performance at last year’s Foot Locker Cross-Country National Finals.

The path that she took to achieve such success, though, is unlike any other.

Beauregard-Breton began her running career competing in the steeplechase event for the Montreal Olympique track club, qualifying for national and world championship events multiple times.

Her cross-country career did not start until two years ago, when she was recruited to run for the Deerfield Academy, a prestigious Massachusetts preparatory school.

The transition away from the water jumps and barriers of steeplechase did not pose much of a problem for Beauregard-Breton, who experienced immediate success during her senior year at Deerfield, eventually becoming the Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

All of this local success in cross country earned Beauregard Breton a shot on the national stage, even though she may not have known it at the time.

“I didn’t know what Foot Locker was until the year that I made it,” she said. “I had no idea it was a big deal at all.”

Beauregard-Breton’s unfamiliarity with the nature of the event certainly didn’t slow her down, as her time of 17:59 in the five-kilometer race put her alongside the best cross-country runners in the nation.

All of the recruiting attention associated with such success could overwhelm an athlete, but for Beauregard-Breton, the choice to come to Penn was an easy one.

“I came here for a visit and I loved it so much,” she said. “I loved the team, I loved the coaches, and I just felt like I wanted to run here.”

The transition from high school to intercollegiate racing, though, has been tougher.

Unable to train as intensely between seasons as usual due to a summer job, the highly touted freshman entered the year behind the curve, sitting out the team’s season-opening race at Fordham.

Her times have steadily improved throughout the year, though, jumping from a 24:38 in her debut six-kilometer race to a 23:52 at the team’s most recent six-kilometer event, the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at Princeton.

With such rapid improvement over the season, Beauregard Breton seems poised for success on Saturday at NCAA Regionals at Maryland Eastern Shore.

“She’s made tremendous progress and her talent’s really shown,” coach Blake Boldon said. “She came to me a week and a half ago and said, ‘Coach, I’m starting to feel like a runner again.’”

“When one of the best runners in the country comes to you and says that, it’s a good sign.”

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