The 18-year-old 2017 graduate from Middleton Regional High School crossed the stage with a 99 per cent academic average in Grade 12 and picked up the Governor General’s Award.
Throw in a $65,000 scholarship to the Western University in Ontario, a $3,000 renewable track and field athletic financial award, and a spot on Western’s varsity track team.
Oh, and she’s on Team Nova Scotia in athletics for the Canada Summer Games July 28 to Aug. 13 in Winnipeg.
The Nova Scotia champ still holds a provincial record in Junior Girls triple jump set in 2013 – 10.48 metres.
She’s erudite, articulate, athletic, and hopes to be a doctor.
“It’s a long process. We’ll see what happens,” she said. “I’m taking medical sciences right now. I’m excited. I’m also nervous. It will be a long way from home, from my family and my friends. It will be different but I think it will be fun.”
While Holland had no real desire to take part in track and field, it was bound to happen.
“My older sister was really into track and my dad coaches at the high school,” she said. “When my sister was doing it she went to nationals and she and my dad wanted me to come practice with them.”
She did it reluctantly – at first.
“I didn’t really want to do track at first, honestly, because it was kind of my sister’s thing and she was really good at it,” she said. But in answer to a perceived challenge from her father Clive Holland she kept at it. “I ended up liking it as I went.”
“I made it to provincials every year starting in Grade 7,” she said. “I wasn’t really expecting anything out of Grade 7 but ended up winning triple jump without a lot of practice I guess. So that’s when I decided I should probably actually train.”
Older sister Emily was a jumper as well and went to Legion Youth Nationals twice. Rachel Holland has gone four times.
She started out with triple jump and long jump and then started doing hurdles.
“Triple jump was my best event for a while, but now my best event’s long jump. That’s what I’m going to Canada Games for,” Holland said.
“I guess when I was younger it was more about learning technique, but as I got older to get better I had to start weight training. So I do that all through the winter and now with my new coach in Sackville it’s a balance. There’s running and training. I don’t really compete. There’s a balance between running and jumping and the weightlifting.”
While Holland is on Nova Scotia’s athletics team, track isn’t really a team sport. Tracking how you’re doing is sometimes difficult.
“Track is kind of hard to tell, to gauge your progress, because I train all year now but we don’t compete very often,” she said. “There’s three high school meets and then I’ve done Canada Games trials and I’ll only have one or two more meets before I go to Canada Games. Our coach always just tells us to trust the process.”
She said really, in track and field you’re competing against yourself.
“I think that’s the biggest mental piece to track and field,” she said. “You have to compete against yourself and not worry about what everyone else is doing. Personal bests are usually the most exciting performances so it’s better to try to measure up to yourself than everybody else competing.”
Holland knows the difference. She also competed in team sports all through high school – volleyball, basketball, and soccer.
“I always had a busy schedule and then once I started doing track full time it got even busier, so I had to manage my time really well to keep my grades up because school is really important to me -- but so are my sports,” she said. “It was hard at times to manage my time but I definitely think being in sports makes you more disciplined – it teaches you that in more of a fun way and then it transfers over into your academics. I definitely think my strong academic standing is because of my sports.”
She credits her parents for helping her – especially with transportation – which now includes three trips a week to Sackville for practice. Also Ryan Elmore who coaches track at MRHS.
“He’s helped me so much to get to where I am mentally, physically and everything,” she said. “I definitely contribute a lot of my success to him.”
“I have complete pride in my daughter,” said Laura Goldie-Holland. “She’s worked very hard to get where she is.”
In fact, she said both the athletic and academic success was all Rachel Holland.
“She’s done that on her own,” said Goldie-Holland. “We’ve never had to push her to do any of it – and thought sometimes we should tell her to stop studying. I feel sometimes she studies too much. She’s done all of this on her own. She deserves the credit. Yes we took her places she had to be, but she was the one who disciplined herself to get where she is.”
With an enrolment of almost 30,000, Western University is a big place. But Rachel Holland will know one other person – another member of her Sackville track club.