Legacy of excellence for departing Hawk
By Darren Lum
Published June 12, 2018
Under an overcast sky, Grade 9 athlete Sterling Nesbitt soars through the damp air, leaping for distance at the sandpit during a practice at the high school under the watchful eye of her coach Russ Duhaime.
The first-year Red Hawks long jumper took a few minutes to speak with the Echo just two days before her first experience at OFSAA – the annual track and field competition where the best high schoolers in the province compete.
It was apparent in her voice that the lone Hawk to earn a berth to OFSAA was still excited about what it took to advance past the East Regional OFSAA competition held on Friday, June 1 in Kingston.
“I got really excited and I grabbed my ribbon. Then I waited for [the other athletes to finish jumping] because they do it from eighth place and up and I looked over at [my teammates] and I was smiling really hard. They couldn’t really see my ribbon because I was shaking it so hard. As soon as I ran over, I screamed and I cheered. I was told to quiet down because there were others jumping at triple jump,” she said, referring to learning of her fourth place and OFSAA berth.
She adds it was satisfying to share the joy with her friend Rebecca Archibald, who was at the pits nearby and not only achieved a personal best in the triple jump, but also a sixth place.
Nesbitt earned her OFSAA berth by finishing fourth at the East Regional OFSAA competition a week earlier. Coach Duhaime was proud of Nesbitt, but was really taken when he saw how much the moment overcame her father, a large, strong-looking man.
Initially, it was a bittersweet moment for the Grade 9 athlete, who had befriended her closest competitor Ellie Murdock of Adam Scott Vocational Institute of Peterborough.
“I felt really bad because at Kawarthas I beat her and at COSSA she beat me and then I beat her at East Regionals. So, I was like ‘I’m really sorry, Ellie. But at the same time, I’m going to OFSAA and you’re not,” she said, with rising intonation.
When asked if she would be looking to repeat her performance next year, Nesbitt revealed this was the end of her time with the Hawks. Nesbitt will be pursing her dream to play a high calibre of hockey and has decided to go to hockey school, the Ontario Hockey Academy located in Cornwall this September.
She’s told that many graduates of the academy are admitted to virtually any post-secondary institution in Canada or the U.S. She hopes to go to Princeton to not just play hockey, but to also pursue a profession in her favourite subject, science and, in particular, chemistry.
Going into the competition, the fair-haired, lithe girl knew she was going to be challenged by the other athletes, who average five metre jumps compared to her less than 4.30 metre average. However her goal was to make it to the final round (earn the right to have six jumps – three per round) and get into the top-eight. And, if she didn’t, she was fine with it.
“I don’t think I have very much pressure on me. I’m just really happy that I made it and I had such good team supporting me,” she said, referring to coaches and teammates.
Regardless of the finish at OFSAA, Nesbitt said she was proud about her legacy.
“I’m leaving my name here. When people go to check those records. Those Grade 8s and the Grade 7s ... when they do the long jump and see my name they know, ‘hey, I know this girl. She did something,’” she said.
OFSAA experience realized
On Thursday, June 7, Nesbitt and her fellow midget long-jumpers opened the OFSAA track meet in Toronto. Nesbitt jumped a distance of 4.62 metres just shy of the 4.69 metres she jumped at the East Regionals, a personal best and school record. She finished in the top 20 in the province in front of parents, her brother and friend Harmony Porteous.
Nesbitt called it a once in a lifetime event and was satisfied with her effort, believing she did her best.
“It was very surreal and I still can’t believe I had made it that far. I was very proud to be representing my school and all the effort my teammates and coaches have put in through the track season. There were many professional athletes there who have been training for this for years, it was eye opening to see how dedicated and strong they were with their sports,” she wrote in a text. “I know I will remember the people I met and became friends with while doing my jumping through Kawarthas, COSSA, and East Regionals. But [what] I will remember most is the smiles and support I had from my family, friends, teammates and coaches. They are the ones who made it possible for me to have such an amazing opportunity.”