Indigenous teen uses running to chase the hope her cousin, Maisy Odjick, is still alive

An Ottawa high school student is making a name for herself on the race track to raise awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, including her cousin, who disappeared in 2008.

'She's doing the thing that most don't think they can do, or think they shouldn't be doing'

Runner Jennifer Tenasco trains for this weekend's qualifying race for the North American Indigenous Games. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

An Ottawa teen says she won't give up on the search for her cousin, who disappeared eight years ago.

Jennifer Tenasco is making a name for herself on the racetrack to raise awareness about the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women.

The 17-year-old Immaculata High School student is competing this weekend in Montreal for a spot at the North American Indigenous Games after bringing home two gold medals earlier this summer at the Ontario Aboriginal Summer Games.

Tenasco plans to wear a shirt in honour of her missing cousin, Maisy Odjick.

Jennifer Tenasco plans to wear a shirt in honour of her missing cousin. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Odjick and Shannon Alexander disappeared in 2008

Odjick was 16 years old in 2008 when she disappeared along with Shannon Alexander from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Nation in Quebec, north of Ottawa-Gatineau. The girls were initially listed as runaways, something her family believes stalled the investigation.

"She was really close to me," said Tenasco. "We're still looking for them. We're not giving up."

The national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls launched on Aug. 3. It's expected to bring the victims and their families closer to healing, as well as provide a path to prevent future violence.

"It gives us more hope," said Tenasco.

Maisy Odjick, left, was 16 and Shannon Alexander, right, was 17 when they were last seen in September 2008.

Annual run/walk set for Sept. 16

Tenasco's mother, Maria Jacko, says she's tried everything to search for answers into her niece's disappearance but ran out of avenues.

So, with the help of her daughter, they've been holding an annual run/walk for Odjick and Alexander back home in Kitigan Zibi. This year it's being held Sept. 16 and is expected to draw the largest crowd yet.

Every day you're thinking, 'What happened?' You need to know. It eats you up.-  Maria Jacko, Jennifer Tenasco's mother

"I never thought they'd be missing this long," said Jacko. "I wanted to keep awareness that she's still out there and we still need answers."

"Every day you're thinking, 'What happened?'" said Jacko. "You need to know. It eats you up. It's definitely hard. For me, running is my outlet. To me, running takes away every negative feeling that you're thinking."

Maria Jacko, Jennifer Tenasco's mother, is also a runner. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

'She goes after her goals'

Other indigenous teens are taking note of Tenasco's skill and drive and now want to start running too, says her coach. 

You need to have something that drives you. I think she found one.- Lyndon George, CANI Athletics

"She's doing the thing that most don't think they can do, or think they shouldn't be doing," said her coach, Lyndon George, with CANI Athletics. 

"She's outside the box. We're hoping to get more young ladies like her into the program."

"A human being has to have something — an inner motivation. You need to have something that drives you. I think she found one."

'We're still looking for them. We're not giving up,' Jennifer Tenasco says.