Wanita Dykstra-May got the shock of her life when she went to a family barbecue at her brother Rick Dykstra’s house just after Labour Day.
About 40 family members had gathered and were told to expect a surprise or some kind of announcement and Dykstra-May figured it might have something to do with a family pregnancy.
Instead, Dykstra-May was floored when St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame chair Peter Partridge showed up and informed Dykstra-May she was to be inducted into the hall this year.
“I just started crying and I don’t usually (cry) so everyone was laughing,” Dykstra-May said from her family home in St. Davids. “I’m still shocked and stunned.
“I loved my high jump career. I loved jumping and competing but I never thought it was anything spectacular.”
Dykstra-May has a gift for understatement.
The 44-year-old is one of the most decorated and successful female high jumpers in Canadian history and still holds the Canadian junior high jump record of 1.92 metres. She also competed in the pentathlon, where she holds the Canadian high jump pentathlon record, and the heptathlon. As well, she is an eight-time national champion, junior national champion, three-time OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) champion and former St. Catharines Athlete of the Year, just to name a few of her highlights.
“I look back and I’m really proud my Canadian record still stands, but at the same time, I’d be excited (if someone broke it), but it’s a bragging right either way. I’m excited I still have it,” she said.
Dykstra-May isn’t quite sure how she will react on induction night.
“I’m still wrapping my head around it that I’m considered part of that group,” she said. “I loved that I jumped and loved that I competed but I never thought anyone noticed.
“I’m honoured to be considered. It still blows my mind.”
Dykstra-May went to Beacon Christian School in St. Catharines before garnering a track scholarship to Kansas State University, where she met her husband, Chris May, a distance runner from England.
She continued to compete and excel for Canada until retiring in 2003 when she became pregnant with her first child, Mikayla.
“I was still on national carding and still jumping well but it was time (to retire),” she said.
After that, Dykstra-May become a full time mother and had two more children, Connor, 12, and Kaitlyn, 9.
She admits to still missing the thrill of competition, but now gets her fill through her children.
“It was a great life but I love the life we have now. I love being a mom and being the sport mom — the soccer mom — it’s a whole new thing. Now we get to watch our kids do it.”
She has coached all three in various sports and is proud to say they enjoy competing.
“All three are athletically talented, but even if they weren’t, the love for sports is there. They are very talented but none of them brag.”
With her jumping career in the rearview mirror, Dykstra-May began another challenge 10 years ago when she wrote her first book under the pen name of W.J. May.
“I always had my head in a book,” she said. “My dad had cancer and the year after he died I told my husband I’m going to write a book.
“I always had these ideas in my head. I could have a story go on in my head for weeks.”
Dykstra-May joined a critique group on line and her young adult fantasy book was quickly picked up by a small publishing company, who took off with her royalties.
“I never got paid but I got my rights back and I published. It sucked but it ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise.”
Dykstra-May’s first book, Rae of Hope – from the Chronicles of Kerrigan, sold 40,000 copies in the first week.
“Obviously there’s a whole new plan for me,” she said.
Dykstra-May ended up penning 30 books in the series and is currently writing another series on its character’s kids.
“I always say to my kids you can do anything you want. You have to be able to believe it and work for it. Nothing comes easy,” she said.
Dykstra-May said her first book took about six months to write. She’s now cranking out about a book a month and is a USA Today best-selling author.
“I feel a need for good stories or fun stories without so much romance. Kids just want to get away,” she said. “Fantasy is a great thing. Once you build that world, the world exists and you can add characters and do all this stuff.”
Also being inducted into the hall are Tonya Verbeek, Bill Schenck, Ron (Swede) Burak and Ellard (Obie) O’Brien.
The 2019 Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 5:30 p.m. at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and following the induction ceremony, there will be a reception which will include hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.
BPSN’s coverage of the St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame is brought to you by Peter Partridge of Partridge Wealth Management of RBC Dominion Securities (www.peterpartridge.com).