Growing up Zach Blakely was full of energy.
As a result his mother Mary-Jo decided to enrol him with the Thunder Country Gymnastics and Trampoline Club in Red Deer.
“She was hoping I’d wear some of that energy off … but I’m still energetic,” Blakely said with a laugh.
But what Mary-Jo didn’t know at the time was that Zach would develop into one of the top young trampoline competitors in the country.
The 17-year-old has been named to the Canadian national junior team, along with Thunder Country teammate Kalena Soehn.
Blakely joined the Thunder Country rec program in 2005 and by 2007 he was in the competitive division.
“I enjoyed the sport and when I was seven I looked at the competitive side and figured why not give it a try,” he explained.
He never regretted it and moved up the ranks quickly. By the time he was 11 he was doing double flips and five years later was doing triples.
“It was a good progression,” he said.
It was when he started doing double flips that he felt he could go places in the sport.
“I felt I was doing OK and because I was doing well in school I had more time to train as hard as I could,” said Blakely, who is in Grade 12 at Hunting Hills. “I’m still fortunate my schooling goes well and so I have the time to train.”
He’s also fortunate to train with two of the premier trampoline and double-mini trampoline (DMT) athletes in the country in Kyle and Keegan Soehn.
“I’m lucky to have the resources I do and grateful to be able to work with them and have them as role models,” he said. “They are the bench mark I compare myself to and the level I set for myself.”
Blakely competes mainly in trampoline and DMT and occasionally in synchronized trampoline.
“Synchro is fun, but usually I have partners who are younger or older than I am,” he said. “What you need is a partner close to your skill level. I do know there is less pressure on me when I’m the bigger guy in the pair. When you’re younger, and smaller you don’t want to let your partner down and feel that pressure.”
Blakely teamed with Ashton Henfrey to win the level 5 novice synchro title at the Canada Cup in Kamloops. He was second in DMT and fifth on the trampoline at the junior level.
He also competed at the junior level at the Canadian championships in Edmonton, taking third on the trampoline and second in DMT. He won both competitions at the provincials and competed for Canada at the 2016 Indo Pacific Championships in Napier, New Zealand, winning gold in the 17-and-over trampoline and bronze on the DMT.
“It was good competition. There were five countries with Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Japan along with Canada.”
Blakely has also competed at the World age group championships in Denmark last year.
“I didn’t do as well as I would have liked on the trampoline. In DMT I was first in my flight and I felt confident as I went for something to eat. When I got back I was passed mainly by some Russian athletes and was 10th.”
Blakely will continue to compete for the junior national team and will go to Bulgaria for the World finals next year. He also has his sights set on making the senior national team.
“That’s my next goal,” he said.
He will graduate from high school in June and hasn’t fully decided what is ahead of him.
“I had thought about going to the University of Alberta, but continue to train with Thunder Country,” he said. “It would mean driving back and forth, but I’d do it. Or I may go to Red Deer College, It would be cheaper and I’d be here … so we’ll see.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com. His work can also be seen at Danny’s blog at rdcathletics.ca