This Thursday I travelled north to my hometown of Espanola. I was notified back in September that I had been selected as an inductee into the Espanola wall of fame. To be honest, at first I felt a little weird about it. With most female triple jumpers competing well into their thirties, I questioned the timing of this great honour– my career is just getting started! I quickly realized that my town simply wanted to recognize what I have accomplished thus far in my career – and I couldn’t be more honoured.
With how crazy school has been, I hadn’t put a whole lot thought into this ceremony. As I was writing my speech on the long drive home, I quickly realized what this recognition means to me and how truly blessed I am to be honoured in this way. I am so grateful that so many people that have always meant so much to me were able to make it to the ceremony and share the moment with me – old teachers, friends, parents of friends. Being able to see and catch up with these people was such a great feeling. Equally wonderful was getting the chance to meet people I don’t know personally and young kids who claimed to look up to me.
Terry Fallat – my highschool guidance councillor, coach, and the father of my childhood best friend Thomas – did my introduction. It was a very emotional experience hearing him speak of the many wonderful memories I’ve been fortunate enough to experience throughout my life. He has been kind enough to pass along his speech so that those who were unable to be at the ceremony can read it. Following what he said, I have also attached my speech. Thanks so much everyone for the congratulations and kind words – enjoy!
Terry Fallat’s speech:
We’ve all read the headlines….6 golds at All Ontario…Canadian high school record, US scholastic indoor champ, university field athlete of the year…Canadian triple jump champion….BUT here are 3 things I bet you do NOT know about Caroline Ehrhardt.
1. She cannot keep junk food in the house…chocolate and pizza are her downfall! I feel less guilt now. 2. When not at school or training Caroline volunteers at a…playcare centre! She loves the kids and brings balance to her life. 3. Out of nowhere, this year….Caroline picked up this musical instrument and taught herself to play…. the violin ( I’m with you…cant picture it…but its true!) I’m sure she will do a solo for you later.
I didn’t know those things and I’ve known Caroline a very long time. She was best buddies with my youngest son Thomas….same babysitter…Evelyn Tallon….same class throughout elementary school. Caroline was wonderful kid….personable, kind, sharp in school and ….even then …she was a very good athlete.
One day my son came home in tears ….and I asked him what was wrong. He said that Caroline told him that her mom was really sick and she was very worried. It turned out that her mom Judy was very ill and after years of fighting cancer she lost her battle when Caroline was only 11. It was absolutely heartbreaking. You know, at that point on Caroline could have tossed in her cards…she had a built in excuse for the rest of her life….but with the support of her dad Klaus and sisters Katie and Jackie, Caroline forged forward.
She continued to be loved by her friends, had top grades at school and continued to excel in athletics. Grade 7/8 Coaches like Bill Ouderkirk and Rock Taylor spoke her praises.
In grade 8 she began training with our track team at Espanola HS. We had coached her older sister Jackie who was an amazing runner and Klaus had said to us that he had another girl…who could even be better.
Before high school began Klaus got to work in his back yard and built a full out jumping pit. Shades of Walter Gretzky and the backyard rink!! Caroline would spend hours there, jumping each night. At this point XC and track coach Dave Gallant became her coaching mentor. Dave could not be here tonight but told me he saw Caroline arrive with incredible talent, a passionate distaste for losing and had unbridled enthusiasm ….she was a ‘once in a lifetime athlete’ that comes into a coaches life. He quoted Henry David Thoreau…You cannot dream yourself into A character…you must hammer and forge yourself into one….and Caroline brought…. an awfully big hammer! Her work ethic was legendary…even when she injured her foot she committed to hours in the pool each week for rehab. They worked tirelessly together throughout the years and the hard work paid off. Grade 9 she just missed the podium… but set a new OFSAA record in grade 10 and then a new Canadian record in grade 11 and 12. She was the best EVER.
3 things that really stand out in my mind during her time at EHS. 1. Caroline has just won her first gold medal at the All Ontarios…it was unreal…the first athlete from EHS to win gold against the best from Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa…unbelievable. As she gets up on the podium the girls to the left and right of her have their Lulu Lemon suits zipped up…looking very fashionable for the pictures…but there was our Caroline…decked out with her Espanola Pini front and centre….humble, gracious, proud of her school…she wore her Espanola T’s everywhere she competed.
SECONDLY… Caroline always ran anchor on our 4x100m relay teams. So one time, in her senior year, we are in Manitoulin and as the baton reaches her we are in solid second place…the lead girl is 30 m ahead running to the finish line. ITS OVER. Now, Caroline could have taken the baton and said”” hey, I’m the Canadian triple jump champion..this is not even my event…I’m just going to leg this out and we’ll collect the silver – but that is not how Caroline operates….she gets the baton and just …turns…. animal ( in a good way! ) and RIPS down that straightaway….she was narrowing the gap but time is space is running out…the crowd is going wild ……..she lunges at the line and catches the lead girl and we win gold…it was unbelievable… I see coach John Diebel and coach Dan Taylor here tonight and I see them nodding there heads……it was brililiant….but it was a clear display of her determination, grit and how much pride she takes on when she put on that Espanola pini.
And lastly….we were at Western on her last competition as a high school athlete at the All Ontarios. The place was jammed…and all of a sudden the announcer comes on and says…’please direct your attention to the triple jump area…the greatest triple jumper in high school Canadian history is about to make her final jump….Caroline Ehrhardt from Espanola HS”…and the crowd spontaneously starts clapping in unison as she makes her way down the runway….and I look over to coach Mac Bertrand and he’s crying and Dave Gallant is crying and now I’m crying…it was a magical moment..frozen in my minds eye…and in typical Caroline fashion, on her last jump of her high school career she set a new Canadian record of 12.78 m. It was spectacular!!
No doubt Caroline is an amazing athlete. But more than that she is a terrific person…caring sister and daughter…loyal friend and teamate… and she always, always remembers where she came from….Espanola.
Ladies and gentlemen…your Canadian champion…Caroline Ehrhardt.
I want to start by saying wow, it feels good to be home and surrounded by so many friends and family.
Thank you Mr. Fallat for the wonderful introduction. I feel very humbled and honored to have been selected as a wall of fame inductee and to be here with you tonight.
Thank you to the mayor Mike Lehoux, members of council, and the selection committee for making this evening possible. Thank you also to Ann Towns and Brenda Lafrance who are definitely influential figures whose work behind the scenes made it possible that I was recognized here tonight.
Congratulations to my fellow inductees who are also being recognized tonight. I feel very honored to be here amongst not only you, but all Espanolians. Everyone in the community has always been so encouraging, whether it be close friends or people I don’t know personally. Words cannot describe what it means to me to have your support. People of Espanola, your belief in me has paved the way for my journey, a journey that goes all the way back to a little red-headed grade 2 girl who wanted to stay behind on a field trip to Science north so that she could participate in AB Ellis’ track and field day which was scheduled on the same day. As my classmates were at Science north learning about gravity, I was about to test it out myself as I stood on the runway at the Espanola track and field about to jump for the first time in my life. I sprinted down the runway and catapulted myself into the air. I fell in love, and I haven’t looked back – or down – since.
I cannot thank my past teachers enough. A.B. Ellis teachers like Ms. Insley, Miss Mcmillan who is now Mrs Lacasse, Mrs Maguire, Mr and Mrs Ouderkirk. My teachers and mentors at Espanola High School – Mr. Gallant, Mr. Fallat, Mr. Bertrand, Mr. Duranaleau, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Punkari, Mr. Diebel, Mrs. Beers-Marcollin. I feel so lucky to have had the leadership of so many incredible people through my elementary and high school years – people who not only encouraged me to work hard and strive towards my goals in order to be a good athlete, but people who taught me how to be a good person all round. When people ask me what my goal is, I always say that I want to be a world class athlete with world class character. I thank these individuals for teaching me what it means to have world class character.
Thank you to my former coach and long-standing mentor Mr. Gallant who, without a doubt, is the reason I have achieved what I have today. Without his countless sacrifices and dedication to helping me reach my utmost potential, none of this would have been possible. He saw something in me and was relentless in helping me untap it. Thank you also to my current coaches in London, Vickie Croley and Frank Erle, who have taken up where Mr. Gallant left off and are currently helping me strive towards my goals.
Thank you to my family – My dad, his partner Myrna, my sister Katie, and my sister Jackie who unfortunately couldn’t be here tonight. Thank you for all the sacrifices, all the support, but most importantly all the unconditional love. I distinctly remember the first time, but unfortunately not the last time, that I cried to my dad about a disappointing performance in track – I was in 12. Ten years later, you can only imagine all the times my family has been there for me through thick and thin. Thank you for helping me up after the many stumbles along the way.
I feel privileged being here tonight knowing that there is still so much more I want to accomplish. My goal is to be the first Canadian woman to compete in triple jump at the Olympics. Some days this goal seems very legitimate, other times it feels near impossible – but no matter what, it always feels right.. it always feels like me working towards this dream is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. We often strive towards a goal, anxious to see the results once we attain it. We wish we could fast forward to that moment when we finally achieve what we have desired for so long. What I have learned, is that the best part is happening right now. All the gruelling practices, the late nights in the weight room, the 1cm defeats, the pain, the tears, the smiles, the people I’ve met along the way, being here with you tonight…. The best part of reaching a goal is most certainly all the experiences that lead up to it. I would like to quote a well-respected bear named Winnie the Pooh who once said, “although eating honey is a very good thing to do, there is a moment just before you begin to eat it which is better than when you actually are”. Thank you Espanola for making my moments leading up to finally getting to eat that honey, better than anything I could have ever imagined. In closing I will leave you with a quote by Ernest Hemingway that goes, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”