Founder of the Smoky River Runners Club receives the ASBA “Friends of Education” award

Smoky River Runners Club coaches Michelle Phillips and Jolene Sauvageau.

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

McLennan resident Michelle Phillips and creator of the Smoky River Runners, Track and X-Country Club received a “Friends of Education,” award recently at Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) presentations in Peace River.

Phillips, a constable with the McLennan RCMP detachment established the running club on the premise that it is absolutely free and available to all kids in the Smoky River Region.

“Our club has grown into a regional family. Our coaches live in McLennan, Falher, Tangent and rural areas in the region,” says Phillips. “Our runners are from multiple communities and schools in the region as well. The goal of Smoky River Runners was to build friendships and positive sport involvement through running, contributing to healthy, connected, caring communities.”

During its inaugural season last year, the club became an enormous success with kids throughout the region participating and some seizing the opportunity to attend practices in both McLennan and Falher, which is an option for all members of the club.

In spite of the club’s success, Phillips still sees it as a work in progress but is confident that “we are getting there.”

The club’s head coaches are Michelle Phillips and Jolene Sauvageau who lives in Tangent.

“This running season I will be responsible for the administration side of the Mclennan practices at Ecole Providence and Jolene the Falher practices at Ecole Heritage,” says Phillips. “We work as a team and help each other out and fill in for one another. We have a wonderful team of coaches who focus on coaching the kids and don’t have to worry about admin.”

The coaches this season are Crystal Cartwright, Cindy Cloutier, Nick Fournier, Guy Girard-Lallemand, Katelyn Lambert, Peter Jasinsky, Allan Paterson, Sophie Tremblay, Elise Turcotte, and Krista Veitch.

In regards to receiving the ASBA honour, Phillips said she has to share that honour with Jolene Sauvageau and all the coaches.

She also expressed her appreciation to Holy Family Catholic Regional Division and Providence Principal Krista Veitch for submitting her nomination.

“This further shows what an amazing partnership we have created with the schools who see the true value in building up our youth through sport,” says Phillips. “I am immeasurably grateful for any opportunity to talk about our youth runners, our awesome coaches plus our wonderful parents and communities. We invite any and all kids in our amazing region to join our free club.”

Michelle Phillips will be on hand for the beginning of the Smoky River Running Club’s new season on Wednesday, October 3 at 4.15pm at Ecole Providence, and Jolene Sauvageau will be at Ecole Heritage at 3.30pm on Thursday for the first practice of the season in Falher.

The Smoky River Running Club is in the process of organizing its second annual “Run to Remember,” which will take place on November 10. The event is held close to Remembrance Day in commemoration of veterans and everyone is invited to participate. The time of the run has yet to be confirmed.

“I am so honoured and humbled to have received the ‘Friends of Education’ award but I can’t accept it on my own though,” Phillips said.

“Smoky River Runners success is a result of our team of coaches, our supportive schools, our incredible communities in the region and especially our little runners.”

Jolene Sauvageau and Michelle Phillips can be reached at


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