Earlier this year it was suggested to Sydney Larsen she should look at competing in the pentathlon when it came to track and field.
The 17-year-old Grade 11 student at Hunting Hills already competed in the high jump, winning silver at the provincials in Grade 10, and was more than intrigued at the thought of competing in a number of events.
“My coaches with the Red Deer Titans (Ronald Hewer) and high school (Doug Spicer) nudged me in that direction and I enjoy being a multi-sport athlete and felt I had the body type to compete,” she explained. “I’m strong, have good cardio and I’ve always kept my body in shape after being in gymnastics for nine-and-a-half years.”
Sydney started working on the pentathlon, which includes the 100-metre sprint, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800-metres earlier this year, but it wasn’t until just before the area high school championships she showed she was ready.
“I tested in each event and it was a week before the first meet I felt OK,” she said.
She proved to be a natural, finishing second in the girls’ open pentathlon at the provincials at Lindsay Thurber.
“It was a tough day with five events, it wore you down physically, so the mental part was extremely important.”
Larsen showed her mental strength in 800m, the final event of the day. She went in in fourth place overall but was determined to place in the medals. That;s when her mental strength showed.
“Physically my legs were gone … my body wore out,” she said. “But mentally I had to push myself which comes from playing sports. I was telling myself to keep going and pushing over the final 100m. Having my coaches and friends yelling support really helped.
“When it was over I was third in the race and extremely proud of myself, but I was wore out.”
Larsen was the only Grade 11 athlete on the podium, the other two in Grade 12.
“I’m definitely looking toward next year. I have two silvers (high jump in Grade 10 and pentathlon) and would like to finish my high school career with gold.”
The fact she has all year to work toward that goal will make a difference.
“I didn’t have a lot of time to train but now I know what to expect and what to work on and have time.”
She will also compete in the heptathlon (100m hurdlers, high jump, long jump, shot put, 800m, javelin and 200m) in the Alberta Summer Games.
Track and field are only part of Sydney’s busy life. She also competes in basketball at the high school and club levels, and volleyball.
The five-foot-seven Larsen has played with the Hunting Hills Lightning basketball and volleyball teams the last two seasons. She played post and was captain with the basketball team and was a power hitter with the volleyball squad.
Impressive considering she never got into either sport until “Grade 7 or 8”.
“I was in gymnastics and didn’t have time for anything else,” she explained. “I didn’t have time for school sports and wanted to compete at that level so I dropped gymnastics and started doing everything.”
She enjoys being busy.
“It keeps me grounded,” she added. “With school, stress of work and everything else it clears my mind. It’s a way to relax.”
She also enjoys being a leader.
“I like being able to motivate my teammates and pushing to be the best, but then I like track because it’s self-motivation. I love pushing myself.”
Sydney wants to get into nursing and would like to play basketball at the college level with RDC a perfect fit.
“I wouldn’t mind doing track either, so we’ll see.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org