In any other year, traveling to Toronto for a national track and field meet would be a huge thrill for high school athletes.
But this year, the opportunity to participate in the Nike High School Grand Prix is particularly exciting for Nicola Hiller, Jenna Thiessen and Cambria Wiens of Mennonite Educational Institute.
The inaugural Nike event offers the Eagles’ trio a rare chance to compete – and a high-profile one, at that – in a season where the high school track and field campaign has been largely derailed by the labour dispute between public school teachers and the B.C. government.
All of the Abbotsford-Mission district meets have been cancelled – a product of public school teachers withdrawing volunteer services, leaving a shortage of people to run the track events.
“It’s a good opportunity to still get to do some track,” Hiller noted, looking ahead to the Nike Grand Prix, which runs on May 12. “It’s something we’re really looking forward to, and we’ve been training every day. We’re really excited, and we’re going to try our hardest there, because it might be the only big thing we get to do this year.”
The Nike event will bring together upwards of 250 athletes from provinces and territories across Canada, and is billed as a “celebration of sport, culture and youth.” The three MEI students are joining 12 athletes from West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver to form the girls team which will represent B.C.
All three Eagles are participating in the 100 metres and the 4x100m relay. Additionally, Hiller and Wiens will both take part in the long jump, Thiessen and Hiller will run the 200m, and Thiessen is entered in the 100m hurdles.
MEI track coach Kristen Meindertsma said that if her team had known earlier that the local high school meets would be cancelled, more athletes would have applied to attend the Nike meet.
“In hindsight, I think I could have 15 athletes that would go,” she said. “It’s a little bit too bad. But the three that are going, it’s really perfect for them. They’re so super-excited, and it’s fantastic.”
“To be honest, I don’t even know what results are going to look like. It’s about the stewardship of the sport – what you can bring back to your school to build track and field. The results are really secondary.”
That said, Thiessen thinks that winning a medal in Toronto would be “absolutely amazing.”
“It’s definitely a goal I’d push myself for,” she said with a smile. “I’d continue practicing until I threw up just to get on that podium.”
• The MEI contingent is raising funds for the Toronto trip. To help out, contact Meindertsma via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.