Shynelle Woroniuk was sitting in her biology class just a week ago, trying to focus on cell division.
Her mind was elsewhere though, instead focused on an opportunity of a lifetime she had just been presented with the night before.
It was a few agonizing days before the Red Deer teen, who attends Notre Dame High School, was able to share the big news.
Earlier this month, Woroniuk was invited to participate in the Volleyball Canada National Excellence (NEP) program. She was invited along with 15 other female volleyball players between the ages of 16-18 to Richmond, B.C. for three months next fall, to essentially train like members of the national team.
Woroniuk was one of three players in Alberta offered the chance to be a part of the program.
“I started crying, I was so overcome with joy. I was so overwhelmed. I had a lot of disbelief that I had made the program because the odds are so slim,” said Woroniuk, who plays both club level and high school volleyball.
“Disbelief, but I was just so happy that I made it…I’m just so excited I’ll get to play with the best players in Canada.”
The NEP is one of the first steps in identifying potential players for the national program down the road or preparing them to play professional volleyball. In addition to continuing their education, there is plenty of tactical and technical skill development planned over the three months. They will play five-to-six times a week and also play exhibition games against university and college teams in B.C.
Woroniuk views herself as a leader on the court and hopes she can bring that to the table in B.C. She’s also just excited to try and take her game to the next level during her time at the NEP, even if, at five-foot-11, she will be one of the shorter girls at the camp.
“I know I’m an undersized player, I’m going to be one of the shortest there, other than the liberos. I’m just going to have to out jump everybody,” she said.
“I was looking at the list and everybody was six-two and six-one and all of a sudden it’s me, five-11, I was like okay then. I’m going to have to jump high and beat them I guess.”
While volleyball is her first love and main athletic pursuit, Woroniuk has spread her athletic net wide. Last year she was a provincial gold medalist in junior mixed doubles badminton and also won bronze in high jump at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association Track and Field Championships.
Before schools were shuttered earlier this month, the teen had plans to join the Cougars handball team and also compete on the track in the spring.
With all of that, it is badminton she feels like translates most to her volleyball game.
“Just always being on your toes and having to read and react,” said Woroniuk, who also won silver in mixed doubles badminton at the Alberta Winter Games in Airdrie.
“And the snap in badminton, since I started playing in grade 6, it really helped with my snap and using torque in volleyball. I think that’s where the talent came from.”
Down the road, Woroniuk hopes to play university volleyball, maybe professionally, but ultimately hopes she can earn a spot on the national team and compete for a medal at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“I have ambitions to play on the national team when I’m older,” she said. “They said this in preparation for the 2028 Olympics, my overall goal is to play in the 2028 Olympics.”