Branksome’s dynamic duo

DOWN THE STRETCH: Emily Kawaguchi, left, and Lizzy Whalen will be returning to OFSAA looking for medals. After the provincial track meet Kawaguchi looks to pursue a spot on Team Ontario beach volleyball and Whalen will do cross-country. (FRANCIS CRESCIA/TOWN CRIER)

Highlanders’ track stars run and jump to London for OFSAA

Lizzy Whelan is track.

Emily Kawaguchi is field.

Together they are Branksome Hall’s dynamic duo heading to London, Ontario for OFSAA’s annual track meet June 5–6. And they are looking to run and jump their way to the podium.

“I went last year, so I’m not as nervous as I was last year because I have more experience,” Whelan said. “I’m still fairly nervous.

“I know there’s going to be a lot more competition than there was at Metros so it’s a little bit nerve wracking.”

The long-distance runner, competing in both the 800-metre and 1500-metre events, got a personal best at the Metros with a 2:14.97 in the 800 and tallied a 4:47.21 in the 1500. It was good for first  place in both races.

Though she’s coy in admitting her CISAA results, she’s looking forward to adding to her impressive résumé that includes a previous OFSAA encounter that produced a gold in the 800.

Her track and field teammate Kawaguchi returns for her third trip to OFSAA in her chosen field: high jump.

Kawaguchi is pleasantly surprised with her CISAA results, reaching the 1.5 metre mark. At Metros she nailed a personal best 1.55 metres, even though she has been dedicating most of her time to volleyball. She’s playing in a Penn State tournament a week before OFSAA and qualifying for Team Ontario’s beach volleyball team a week after.

“I went into CISAA not really expecting that much because I haven’t been training,” she said. “So I regained my confidence because I was jumping at that height when I was training.”

Whelan and Kawaguchi train with professional coaches at U of T on club teams, which is much to the delight of Branksome Hall track and field coach Lisa Zorzitto.

“Both girls were very dedicated showing up on time,” she said. “They’re real leaders on the track team often taking initiative leading warm-ups and give some of the expertise they have from their private clubs.

“They’re great with the other kids and encouraging,” she added. “It’s nice to have some pros that also think of it as a team sport rather than an individual sport.”

They also do their best to fend off nagging injuries. Whelan seeks chiropractors to deal with her hamstrings while Kawaguchi defies her shin splints by not over-extending herself.

“That was always a constant fear that (injuries) would hold them back,” Zorzitto said. “However they both overcame and achieved above and beyond what was expected.”

The other challenge for the two grade 11s is finding the time to balance sports, life and academia.

“It took a little while to figure out how to balance it all. I’ve been doing this since grade 7,” Kawaguchi said. “The first year was a little bit rocky, but now I know how to manage my time.

“Between practices I will have an hour to get as much homework done as I can.”

As for OFSAA, it’s all about reaching high speeds and new heights.

“My main goal this year, mainly because I am racing against ’91 and ’92 girls is to just do the best I can do and get a personal best,” Whelan said. “Whatever else I get will just be an add on.

“If I medal that would be great, but I’m focusing on doing a good run.”

Kawaguchi is looking for a top 10 finish.

“I don’t think I will be winning but I think I will do pretty well if I am able to perform like I did at Metros,” she said. “I’m just going for a personal best.”

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