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Maple Ridge athlete wins U18 hammer throw event at premier national meet

Lauren Curtis took top spot at the Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships
Lauren Curtis competes in the hammer throw at the Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships. (Special to The News)

A Maple Ridge athlete has won gold for hammer throw at the Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships.

Lauren Curtis won with a throw of 53.36 metres with a three kilogram hammer at the event that took place Aug. 5-7 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, becoming the 2022 Canada U18 Women’s Hammer Champion.

Not even a personal best for the budding hammer thrower, who threw 55.22 metres – a throw that propelled her to number one in the rankings across Canada in her age group – and qualified her for the provincial team.

So, there was clearly some pressure on her going into competition in Quebec.

“But, clearly the pressure worked very well,” she said.

Curtis started in discus and shot put in Grade 5, but didn’t gravitate to hammer throw until Grade 6 – hammer and javelin, noted Curtis, athletes have to be older because the sports are more dangerous.

Her introduction to the hammer throw came about as she was registering for a track and field meet with her mother. Her mom pointed out there was another throwing event she could compete in, hammer.

Then her coach looked on YouTube to figure out how to teach Curtis the sport and with one practice she competed and won the event.

Curtis did hammer throw for fun and didn’t start training seriously until just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

She started training with her coach online.

READ MORE: Ramblers win medals, team titles at regional track championships

Now Curtis competes at the high school level representing Maple Ridge Secondary, where she is going into Grade 11 in September. And also with Golden Ears Athletics, a local track and field club.

To make Team B.C. Curtis had to throw a minimum of 53.23 metres at least once at a meet during the season. Curtis threw the standard twice.

“So I was the only one eligible my age for Team B.C.,” explained Curtis, since she was the only one who hit the standard.

The Legion Nationals is put on by the Royal Canadian Legion and is Canada’s only nationwide competition for U16 and U18 athletes.

Curtis noted a big part of competition is the mental game and “staying in the zone”. She deals with the stress by telling herself her next throw is just a practice throw or a new round and, she said, it takes the edge off.

“If you are able to take the pressure off yourself by just like thinking of something else, then it’s very helpful,” said Curtis, adding that some people crack under pressure, while others excel.

Curtis will have to throw a four kilogram hammer next year for school competitions – the same weight the women’s hammer is at the Olympic level. It is a challenge she welcomes.

ALSO: Maple Ridge secondary hosts annual Nick Wilkes track meet

The next competition for Curtis is the 6th Annual Cory Holly Classic Throws Competition, taking place in Vernon on Saturday, Aug. 20, and then there will be one more meet in September to mark the end of the season.

The best thing about the competitions, said Curtis, are the people she meets.

“You meet people who are just as dedicated and who care as much about the sport as you do,” she said. “So you make lifetime friends.”

Over the winter she plans to be at the gym weight lifting and training for next season, when she will be in her second year U18.

Curtis is hoping to go back to Legion’s with Team B.C. and to also compete at the U20 nationals that are to be held in Langley.

Eventually she is hoping to get a scholarship to a university in the United States, to further her education.

For right now, though, her main goal is to continue to get better and achieve new personal bests.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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