There’s passion coming from the words Erica Fearnall shares when talking about her experiences of Northern athletics.
She’s just graduated, prepping herself for psychology classes at York, and hoping to join the university’s swim team.
“We’ll see what happens,” she said, hints of excitement bubbling in her voice. “Not that I’m expecting to make it, but I know it’s a lot more challenging.”
The past four years in the pool at Northern have given her the confidence to take that next step.
She’s progressed from the shy grade 9, worried about missing the final week of tryouts, to a team leader. Representing the red, gold and blue at the regionals in 100-metre breaststroke, freestyle and medley.
“I didn’t think, in such a huge school, I would ever find anything I would want to do that would be a big part of my four years,” the 17-year-old said. “It was an amazing experience and the people that I met had not only pushed me athletically, but academically too.”
It was the tutelage of Karen McIntyre, both inside the pool and out, that helped her focus her drive, earning a silver medal in the breaststroke during the regionals.
“She was just always there and she would work us out so hard,” Fearnall said. “None of us knew how she could work out with us and still lift more weights than us — make us want to be stronger, faster.”
It was McIntyre who also helped Fearnall make her post-secondary choices, as the swimmer’s guidance counsellor. As one half of twins, getting used to being separated from sister Marli was something new.
“She helped us work through that,” she said. “Make decisions about courses and getting along with other teachers for the year.
“She’s just an amazing lady.”
Alliances are an asset. Fearnall reunited with an elementary school colleague, Adrienne Kotler, and the two formed a friendship that has ceased to ebb.
The pair set a target for the 2010-11 season: Etobicoke.
“We always had a goal, ‘Let’s go to OFSAA’,” Fearnall said. “Neither of us made it, but in my last year we really worked twice as hard, we knew we were close.”
But the flu had other plans, sinking her into her bed for two weeks.
“I was crying and not happy because you train for so long just to have it all taken away,” she said.
Failing to reach the podium at the city championships for swimming was tough for Fearnall, but achieving top status in ultimate Frisbee for the third time in four years made up for it.
So much success across all sports never ceases to amaze her, she says.
“It’s just our school has so many talented athletes and people in academics,” she said. “They just need people to push them and that’s why our coaches are so good.
“I just feel bad for people who don’t do any sports because they really miss out.”