By Travis Chater, Athletics Coordinator
Grade 11 life has inherent challenges for any student—choices must be made about the future, courses are challenging, marks contribute to post-secondary applications and social circles seem synonymous with identity. Adding a competitive sport to this mix isn’t easy. It requires an added level of time management, commitment and attention to one’s holistic being, but SMS student Kelsey Farmer proves that with the right perspective, it’s possible to pursue a high level of sport even during these already challenging senior years.
Kelsey recently won gold medals in both the Under 23 and Junior categories in the Woman’s Pair at the 2012 Canadian National Rowing Championships. She and her partner Caleigh Filmer earned the Canadian titles after three hard days of paddling. It was no easy feat.
Kelsey says they went into the race not knowing what to expect; they were up against some accomplished rowers, including senior competitors who had won gold at the World Championships in the Woman’s Eight. Their first race did not go as Kelsey and Caleigh had hoped. They had a chance to regroup before the repachage (a system allowing the losing teams in a heat to race again for a chance to go through to the finals), and Kelsey says this was a turning point for her and her partner. The girls never lost sight of their potential and, instead of dwelling on the upset, used the initial defeat as a learning experience. The next round was a great race which Kelsey says “set the tone for the rest of the weekend.” This grounded outlook and healthy perspective on dealing with defeat are undoubtedly what got her where she is today.
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Kelsey (right) during day-one racing at Canadian National Rowing Championships
Kelsey has an invaluable ability to turn performances that don’t measure up to expectations on their head, and use them as opportunities to learn and progress. She admits that it isn’t easy, “It’s ok to be upset in the moment. You can only control what you can control. Once you can step back, you can take what you have learned and apply it to future experiences.” This ability to turn upset into opportunity is a skill Kelsey has developed over time—one which has proven valuable in many aspects of her life.
Kelsey applies the same approach to her academics. Instead of dwelling on a disappointing mark she says she strives to find ways to come back stronger. She admits that balancing everything in her life is a constant “job” and acknowledges that sometimes it is difficult to keep all the balls in the air. Communication is the key to the balancing act according to Kelsey. She often has to talk to her teachers about days she will need to miss or assignments she is finding hard to complete due to her busy schedule. She says the support and encouragement she receives from the teachers at St. Margaret’s is “amazing.” She also credits the reciprocal support her coaches afford, “They have been really supportive if I have to miss a practice for a test.”
Kelsey has had to make sacrifices along the way. She was part of a training camp that ran from September right up to her races at Nationals in November. During this time, Kelsey says she spent very little time with anyone but her teammates, and saw her sleep, studies and friendships succumb to the extra training hours she was putting in. Kelsey is able to keep a very realistic outlook on her sacrifices and works at making things up between these more intense periods of training. So, what makes it all worth it? Kelsey says it all boils down to her passion for the sport.
Kelsey’s motivation is driven by more than the accolades and trophies. She is driven by love. A love of the feeling she gets when she knows she pushed herself to the threshold of pain…and then gone harder. A love of accomplishing her goals, and knowing she did the best she could. She concedes that she sometimes loses sight of this love and finds herself in the midst of a training camp, practice race or academic assignment asking herself, “Why am I doing this?” She offers the advice that in the pursuit of excellence in any field this question will arise. “Know that if you love it, you’ll always remember why you are there and it will always be worth it.”
Kelsey’s athletic career is still young and she has shown she has endless potential. Her rowing will likely be a gateway for her to continue with post-secondary education (she hopes to row for an American university) and she admitted that the Olympics are certainly on her radar.
For now, Kelsey has her sights set on qualifying to compete in the World Junior Championships in her graduating year. Her abilities are inspiring and she showcases what is possible with a level head, a supportive community, and of course, by finding something you really love to do.
Kelsey (centre right) at the National Rowing Championships Medal Ceremony