The first weekend in June always has me feeling very nostalgic – OFSAA weekend! A time when the best of the best high school track and field athletes from every corner of Ontario come together and battle it out. I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences in sport; representing Canada, representing my university, but my OFSAA memories are the ones I cherish most, and this time of year always has me remembering those times fondly.
My first OFSAA in grade 9 was held in Ottawa. I can still remember our first drive from the hotel to the track like it was yesterday. The song “Time of Your Life” by Green Day came on the radio, and my coach turned around to face me in the van with a very serious but excited look in his eyes. “Here we go. Let’s have the time of our life,” he said. I was ridiculously nervous, but I was very intent on winning. I was determined to start my OFSAA career off with a bang and let everyone know who Caroline Ehrhardt from Espanola was. Despite setting a personal best of over 50cm in triple jump, I was disappointed to come away from the meet without finishing on the podium in any of my events. I felt dejected, yet I knew in my heart that next year would be a much different story.
OFSAA in my grade 10 year was held in Hamilton. I won gold in both long and triple jump and set a new OFSAA record in triple jump. I still remember a reporter asking me if I was shocked. I surprised even myself, as a timid 16 year old kid when I said, “Nope. I’ve played this moment over in my mind every day for a year now.” I finally had a taste of success at the elite level, and the taste only made me that much hungrier.
I was in Toronto at Varsity Stadium for OFSAA in grade 11. I had my eye on the Canadian Interscholastic triple jump record which I had actually surpassed at meets in the past. By simply doing it at OFSAA, I would put my name in the record books once again. My competition got off to a shaky start, and not only had I not broken the record by round 4 of the competition, but I wasn’t even winning. Sitting in second place, I remember saying to myself “Stop it! You’re overthinking this. Just do what you know how to do”. On my next jump, my butt flew out of the sand as quickly as it landed in it – I leaped up in celebration with my fists in the air because I knew what I had just done. I broke the national record and just established myself as the best triple jumper in Canadian high school history.
And finally, the culminating event. OFSAA was held in London in my grade 12 year, at TD Waterhouse Stadium, the facility that would later (unknowingly at the time) become my home. On my sixth and final jump, the announcer brought the entire stadium’s attention to me. The crowd clapped in unison as I sprinted down the runway for my final jump of my highschool career, and on this jump I broke my own Canadian interscholastic record. I saluted the crowd, smiled, and took off my Espanola singlet for the last time.
Just like that, four OFSAAs had come and gone. Green Day was right from the very start, I truly did have the time of my life. Six OFSAA gold medals, 3 broken records, countless personal bests, but you know what my favourite OFSAA memory is? The fact that the smile on my dad’s face when he watched my receive my 5th place ribbon in grade 9 was just as big as it was when he watched me win golds and break records in the years that followed. “We’ll have to frame this or something!” he said excitedly as he looked proudly at my ribbon. My coach’s high five was just as hard when I missed the podium than it was when I stood on top of it – his hugs were just as tight. It is because of those actions by them that I learned this: OFSAA wasn’t about winning or losing. OFSAA was about giving it all I had. It was about putting on a performance that I could walk away proud of. OFSAA was about setting goals and maintaining a never-say-die attitude until the very last jump. OFSAA was about having fun and doing my absolute best, because at the end of the day, my loved ones were proud no matter what.
Now that I think about it, it’s not just OFSAA that’s like that, is it? Ah, I continue to learn!
Wishing the very best of luck to all OFSAA competitors this year! Have a blast because I promise you that these will be the days you wish you could get back!