Daniella Kidston can hardly believe her dream has come true.
“The whole experience is surreal,” says the 17-year-old from Port Williams. “I never thought I would be on a provincial team for track.”
Kidston recently earned a spot on the provincial team for the upcoming Royal Canadian Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships.
For more than 50 years, the Royal Canadian Legion has supported young Canadians through training and competition in track and field.
“Each year, the legion raises thousands of dollars to put on one of the best competitive opportunities for Canadian youth in the sport of track and field,” says Steve Morley, head coach for the Nova Scotia team.
And Kidston, along with Windsor’s Zachary James, gets to compete.
The selection process is a little bit complicated, as the team consists of females and males in two different age groups, with a maximum of 38 athletes named to the Nova Scotia team, explains Paula James, Zachary’s mother and coach of the two Valley youth through the Valley Athletics Track Club.
“The selection process involves both placing at the selection meet, which took place in Stellarton on July 6 to 7, and your time compared to a standard set by Athletics Nova Scotia,” she says.
FROM SOCCER TO TRACK
Kidston began school track in Grade 6 and started working with James at Valley Athletics this year, although her primary sport was soccer. She’s no stranger to playing for Team Nova Scotia — she earned a spot on the provincial soccer team as well.
“I was always told I was fast, so I decided to compete as a sprinter,” says Kidston.
When she started with Valley Athletics, she didn’t know much about track, but as she trained more and more, her coaches encouraged her to try and make the provincial team because they thought her time for the 100-metre was good enough to make it.
To ensure she made the team, Kidston went to different competitions to get her time closer to standard, and while competing in the legion competition in Stellarton, she achieved her personal best run and made it on the team with that time.
Coach James says Kidston has a lot of raw talent and natural speed and has seen great gains in the short term that they have been working together.
“To make the provincial track team her first year competing in club track and field is quite extraordinary,” says James.
Kidston will compete in both the 100m and 4x100m relay at the nationals in Sydney this August. Until then, she says she needs to consistently train hard and work on getting out of the blocks quickly because she believes that’s where she struggles the most.
Kidston is hoping to come in the Top 10 in the country but is just looking forward to being part of the team and being able to compete with amazing athletes.
“To achieve a personal best performance at the biggest race of her life is my goal for her,” coach James says. “I hope she comes home with an even greater love of the sport and will continue to grow and excel as a sprinter.”
FOLLOWING IN FAMILY FOOTSTEPS
Like Kidston, Zachary James started track and field in Grade 6, following in the footsteps of his older brother. As a Grade 10 student at Avon View, James thrived in track and had his best school season yet, winning the 100-metre, 400m, 800m events at the high school provincial track meet.
At the upcoming nationals, Zachary will be competing in the 800m and the 4x400m relay events.
Coach James says Zachary has been training very hard since starting high school and has really benefited from training with older boys, including his brother Noah, and other school and club teammates.
“I think that running with these older boys and the great role models they have been has played a key role in his development as an athlete,” says James.
At nationals, Zachary is most looking forward to the 4x400 m relay because he says they have a solid chance at medaling. This year, however, he says is more just about getting ready for the 2021 event, as he is in the younger half of his age group and is not competing in what would be best — the 400m.
This will be Zachary’s second national championship but his first of two years of eligibility in the U18 age division, explains James. Although she thinks a Top 10 performance is possible, the primary goal is achieving a personal best.
“I think next year, when he is at the top of his age division, we will really see what he can do at the national level,” says James.
She adds that Team Nova Scotia does have a very strong 4x400m relay team that Zachary will be a part of and she believes that the runners could surprise some of the other provinces.
Overall, James says to make this provincial legion team is a huge achievement — something the coach knows firsthand, as she also attended the legion nationals for Team N.S., as well as the Canada Games, where she won nine national medals while competing for Dalhousie University.
Making this team bodes well for a good national ranking for the two young athletes.
“Looking ahead, both Daniella and Zach will be eligible for the Nova Scotia Canada Games Team in 2021, and if they continue to progress, I think that is an exciting goal for them both,” she says.
The Royal Canadian Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships will be held in Sydney from Aug. 9-11.