Musician balances band with school, Vikes athletics

Vikes cross country runner Laura Mitic has another life as a musician, and will open for Jon and Roy on Nov. 18

Laura Mitic is looking to make records

Switching gears, Laura Mitic stuffs her running cleats into her backpack and opens her fiddle case.

“This is Grandma,” she explains as she strums a maritime tune.

“Grandma got that name because it’s the oldest instrument in our band.”

Mitic’s voice has a texture to it that makes you want to hear her sing, which she does along with playing fiddle and flute in the five-piece band Carmanah. She’s also in her fifth and final year as a University of Victoria Vikes cross-country and track athlete.

It makes for an interesting life. Mitic, 22, joins the Vikes at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships held on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City on Saturday (Nov. 12). When they return, pretty much the entire team plans to see Carmanah open up for local act Jon and Roy at Sugar Nightclub on Nov. 18.

Mitic puts Grandma back in its case, citing cold weather’s affect on the tune of the strings.

“I think I was the black sheep of this team when I started as a 17 year old,” she said. “Not many coaches would put up with me (the way Brent Fougner and Keith Butler) have.”

Diverse in her pursuits, Mitic will leave UVic with a history major and minor in environmental studies. With so little flexibility in her schedule, Mitic has had to make sacrifices.

This year she skipped the summer’s outdoor track season “to see what Carmanah could do.” They worked on a more professional sound to get radio and festival attention. And they’ve played many of the local festivals such as the Song and Surf and Tall Tree, both in Port Renfrew, as well as Rock of the Woods in Bamberton and others.

Just last weekend Mitic and Carmanah were recording at a studio in Cowichan Lake, as the band is fully active.

Her lighter training over the summer will directly affect how she does on the historic Quebec City plains, says her coach.

It was Mitic’s training throughout the 2010 summer season that eventually won her a second team All Canadian, eighth overall at last year’s cross country championships, he added.

“I didn’t even know if I’d come back to the team this year,” Mitic admits. “(Coach) Fougner understands that I have two passions and I was able to come back, even if it’s not going to be my best season.”

But Fougner said Mitic is doing exactly what student-athletes should. Athletics should be part of a balance in life.

“I told her to go out and tour (with her band), and said ‘let me know if you want to come back.’ She has an awesome voice. We know she has this other life.

“Then she had to work hard to make it back this fall and she’s going in as our fifth runner instead of our first or second.”

Growing up in Halifax, Mitic’s ear for music was expected. Her talent for running wasn’t.

“Fiddling was in the blood. Running I got into myself. I went out in Grade 3 and to my surprise and everyone else’s, won the race. Smallest kid in the class.”

Her family relocated to Vancouver Island when she was two but returned for plenty of summers back in the maritimes. While here, Mitic joined the Victoria Track and Field Club and ran for Claremont secondary, winning silver at the Island cross country in her senior year.

During next semester’s indoor season Mitic will return to her track specialties, the 1,500-metre and 3-km.

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