Rachel Jerome of Ladysmith Secondary leaps for maximum distance in the Bantam Girls Long Jump May 15 during the Island Track and Field Meet.

Rachel Jerome of Ladysmith Secondary leaps for maximum distance in the Bantam Girls Long Jump May 15 during the Island Track and Field Meet.

Rachel Jerome making big strides in track and field

The Ladysmith Secondary School student who earned two firsts at the Island Championships is our Athlete of the Month.

Ladysmith’s Rachel Jerome is a young woman making big strides in provincial track and field circles.

Jerome, the Chronicle’s Athlete of the Month for May, is a 14-year-old Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) student whose penchant for defying gravity earned her a pair of first-place finishes at the Vancouver Island High School Track and Field Championships in Victoria May 15 and 16.

The Bantam distance jumper’s 5.08-metre performance in long jump May 15 and her 10.28-metre triple jump finish May 16 earned Jerome first-place ribbons in both of her trademark events, as well as a trip to Langley later this week for the provincial high school track and field championships.

Jerome — the lone LSS athlete competing at the Island and provincial championships — views high school competitions as an opportunity to build momentum in the lead-up to summer club competitions, she said.

Her goal for the 2013 season is to qualify for the provincial track and field team between now and late July when Kamloops hosts the 2013 “Jamboree” — B.C.’s provincial track and field championships — July 19-21. If she’s successful, Jerome will face her toughest competition to date when she visits Langley Aug. 7-13 to compete in the Canadian Youth Legion Track and Field Championships.

When compared to the results for U16 Girls competing at last year’s championships, Jerome’s current personal bests of 5.08 metres in long jump and 10.85 metres in triple jump — nearly the length of a city bus — rank comfortably within the top 10.

Rachel “was off” her PBs in Victoria, but her mother Marie, who chauffeurs the young athlete to and from Nanaimo three times a week for practice and represents LSS at high school meets, said “it’s early in the season and technically we train for the big track competition in July. You’re building up to peak then, but you need a lot of jumps to get back to that spot again.”

Rachel turns to Nanaimo Track and Field Club coaches Mike Viers and Dave Morris for guidance as she strives to regain peak performance. She trains three times a week with Viers and Morris at Nanaimo’s Rotary Bowl, she said, supplementing her track and field regimen with dance, club volleyball, trail runs and weightlifting.

Rachel and her fellow LSS dance team members won the CoreDance competition in Nanaimo in early May, she said, and her volleyball club, the Nanaimo Mariners, spiked their way to a first-place finish on the Island this year before wrapping up their season with an eighth-place ranking out of B.C.’s 51 under-15 teams.

Each supplemental sport poses its own challenges and risks of injury — shin splints and tight calves, namely — but these are risks she’s willing to take in order to reap the benefits. Dance and volleyball serve as “jump training” that boosts her vertical jumping power. Adding altitude to her long and triple jumps, in turn, improves her overall distance.

For motivation, Rachel relies on a core group of friends who all train with the NTFC and who push each other to stick to a disciplined training schedule, Marie said.

Their collective sense of dedication stems from competing as Midgets in the 2012 BC Summer Games in Surrey, where Rachel earned bronze medals in both long and triple jump. The octet came away from the Games committed to the idea of making the provincial team, Rachel said, and to this day, they “definitely push each other.”

That peer performance pressure doesn’t translate to a hostile, cutthroat atmosphere at track meets, though.

“It’s definitely more about friendship,” Rachel said, adding that distance jumpers focus more on extending their PBs than out-jumping their competition.

As a track and field mom, Marie spends a lot of time driving to and from meets and practices, she said, but the friendships she’s forged with other parents have made it more than worth her while.

She remarked on how Rachel and her friends encourage each other to avoid junk food and sleep properly while sticking to their training schedules.

“In that way, they’re odd teenagers,” Marie said, “but I think if they didn’t have each other, it would be harder for them to stay focused.”

Marie said she’s “very grateful” for positive influence sport has played in her daughter’s life and for the fact that Rachel is “too busy and dedicated to get into any trouble.”

Rachel travels to Langley May 31-June 1 for the BC High School Track and Field Championships.

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