Clarke rises to the occasion
No one had Lauren Clarke picked as a favourite in junior girls discus heading into the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations track and field championships.
The Grade 10 student at Welland Centennial finished second at the Zone 3 championships (20.28 metres), second at the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association championships (23.06 metres) and just barely earned a spot at OFSAA by finishing as the fourth and final qualifier at South Regionals with a personal best throw of 24.13 metres.
All that changed at OFSAA. She recorded personal bests on all six of her throws and ended up winning a silver medal with throw that was more than six metres farther than her PB when the day started.
She started the fateful day a little nervously.
“It was kind of nerve wracking because there were a lot of people there and I had never thrown anywhere except Centennial because all the meets were held here this spring,” the 16-year-old Welland resident said.
Before long, she was battling hard for a medal.
“It was really interesting because the girl who was in first place broke the OFSAA record. She was quite a lot ahead of us and she was obviously going to win but it was myself and two other girls who were fighting for the second and third positions. I kept getting bumped to third or fourth and then I would go down to second,” the Thorold Elite Track Club member said. “On my final throw, I threw a PB that was my really big goal for the season. I threw 30.77 and that put me in second place.”
She felt her success was due to one main thing.
“I started doing a full spin instead of a three-quarter spin and the really helped me gain some momentum.”
Once she saw how far she was throwing with a full spin, she wished she had tried it much sooner.
“It was like ‘Are you kidding? That is all it took.’ I always thought the full spin would be so much harder but I picked it up pretty quickly. Then it was ‘Oh my God.’ I was throwing it six metres farther.”
Thorold Elite coach Steven Fife credited Clarke’s silver medal to three factors: she started using a pair of throwing shoes; the shoes allowed her to spin properly and execute some great spins; and, she became confident she could throw far.
“She is fortunate and we are grateful that she had a really great school coach to work with as well,” Fife said.
Clarke was thrilled to end up on the podium.
“It was amazing after all the hard work and all the hours I had put in. I had made it.”
The medal was presented to her by Jason Tunks, who represented Canada in the Olympics in discus and is the Canadian record holder.
“It was a really, really cool moment,” Clarke said.
Fife feels this is only the beginning for Clarke.
“I hope that winning a silver medal at OFSAA ignites a bit more of a fire in her because she did amazing and has proven herself to be a great thrower, but I know that she still has more in her.”
Clarke started track and field last summer, trying a bunch of disciplines mostly jumping and running and didn’t find her way to throwing until late in the season.
“This year, I started back into it and put a lot of time into it at school practices with my school coach (Jason Higgins) and it paid off pretty well.”
She felt her body type and sporting background were good fits for throwing.
“I am pretty tall and I have pretty long arms. I have a dance background and I was a dancer for a really long time so the dancing and balance helped me with getting the spins down and stuff. It made sense for me.”
Her dance background at Dance Place Welland included jazz, tap, ballet and her personal favourite, musical theatre.
She is not sure where the sport will take her but she is along for the ride.
“I am going to try it out and see where it takes me. I am going to train this summer and go to some meets.”