There aren’t many feelings like winning a medal while representing your country.
Lacombe’s Rachel Hyink accomplished that feeling for a second time after she won bronze in the women’s pole vault finals during the North American, Central American, and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) Track and Field Championships in the Bahamas.
The 24-year-old recorded a 4.20 metre vault to finish third among eight competitors in the finals last Saturday and she said it was a really fun experience to be able to travel while competing at a high level.
“It was some tough conditions but everybody battled and it was really fun to come out in that bronze medal position. It was really hot which I’m not used to when I compete so I was pretty excited to come third at that meet,” she said.
The heat was a part of the environmental barriers but the wind also played a major factor. Hyink said she had to run towards the wind which can have a substantial effect on the results of her vault. The wind she said can slow you down a lot and speed is one of the biggest factors in a successful run. In good conditions typically she would have a 14-step run-up but with the wind being what it was she did a 12-step run-up. Shortening the path and using a shorter pole she said helped her feel more in control.
The NACAC Championships is home to the best track and field athletes in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
“It definitely did have athletes that had been at worlds and commonwealth earlier this year so definitely world-class athletes,” she said.
Hyink was a gymnast for most of her childhood but started competing in track and field in junior high school before she found her love for pole vaulting when she was 17 years old. A high school teacher, who had pole vaulted when he was in college, introduced the sport to Hyink because it was a good transition from being a gymnast.
“I tried it and I liked it a lot and I started training in Edmonton and then I went to the University of Alberta and competed with their track and field team as a pole vaulter for five years,” she said.
Once she finished school she now competes and trains with the Edmonton International Track Club where she travels across the country for competitions.
“It’s just a very technical event and it’s kind of like you have to commit to pole vault just because it does take a lot of time and commitment to get all the technical aspect of it down, all of the timing right. It’s actually very consuming,” she added.
This was the second time she competed for Canada the first coming in 2017 at the U20 Pan-American Games in Peru where she also won the bronze medal. To compete for Canada there are certain standards athletes have to meet such as specific heights you have to jump. Hyink made the NACAC team based on a ranking system of the top 40 track and field athletes in Canada. You also make the list based on your results from events throughout the year.
“At this point, I’d love to get the opportunity again but it depends on year to year. Usually, we only know about a month or maybe two months in advance for certain games and championships so just have to wait and see,” she said.
“It’s very special to wear the Canadian flag on your uniform and to represent your country well. I mean I’ve been in a position where I could podium at both of my Team Canada events, which I’m very thankful for.”
She hopes to one day represent Canada in the world championships and the Olympics but will have to wait until at least 2024 or 2028.