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High-flying Eckert hard to beat

Murdoch athlete sweeps long jump, triple jump gold


So far can she fly that in some meets it seems as if Rebekah Eckert’s closest competition is the one within her own mind.

That’s the way the 17-year-old Murdoch MacKay Collegiate student likes it, though. It’s a big part of why the vivacious 5-10 athlete switched her focus from volleyball to jumping in recent years, inspired by the internal battles of an individual sport.

"This pushes me by myself," Eckert said. "If I suck, then that’s my fault. It’s nobody else’s fault."

'This pushes me by myself. If I suck, then that's my fault. It's nobody else's fault'-- Murdoch MacKay's Rebekah Eckert

Long story short, she doesn’t suck. In fact, the rising track and field star is currently ranked second in Canada, just behind Saskatchewan’s Ope Adelugba. (Eckert was ranked first, until a minor injury knocked her down a bit short. She’s back in form, now.)

That means she is on the brink of reaching this year’s world junior championships — so when Eckert leaped to a pair of gold medals at the High School Series Championships at the University of Manitoba’s Jim Daly Fieldhouse Wednesday, it came as no surprise.

In the long jump, Eckert flew to a 5.72-metre finish, more than a metre ahead of Fisher Branch silver medallist Richelande Plett.

In Eckert’s best event, the triple jump, she soared to 11.74 metre, more than two metres beyond the mark set by second-place Plett.

Sure, the shiny new hardware puts a satisfying wrap on Eckert’s high school indoor season. But for her, the joy of the sport runs far deeper. It’s through jumping, the teen said, that she learned to feel comfortable in her own skin — an evolution she credits for helping her land her first job, and earn a serious shot at a university scholarship.

"Before, I had like, no self-confidence," Eckert said. "Then I started putting in time here, and then it’s like, ‘Whoa, I have a talent.’ I belong somewhere. There’s somewhere I can go, and even if people don’t know, I know that I’m good. And I’m healthy, and I can do all this cool stuff. I feel very confident now."

Reaching that level takes work. It means a long bus ride to and from the U of M each day, where she trains for up to three hours with provincial high-performance coach Ming Pu Wu, who she gives big praise.

"I was nothing before Ming helped me out," she said. "I’m very lucky that he gets to work with me."

Already, that effort has been worth it. Now, Eckert said she just hopes Manitobans will take note of the success that she and her fellow young track and field stars are achieving.

"So many of us put in work here, and nobody cares," she said. "There’s stuff happening almost every week... it’s not about me. There’s a lot going on, and we’d really appreciate if people knew what we were doing."

After all, Eckert wasn’t the only elite young performer to clean up at the Daly Fieldhouse Wednesday.

Vincent Massey runner Victoria Tachinski, who recently set a new Canadian record for the indoor youth 400 metres with a time of 53.97 at the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York, collected golds in her 200-metre, 400-metre and 800-metre events.

And Grant Park cross-country star Jennifer Baragar-Petrash, recently returned from a sweltering-hot competition at the Pan Am Cross Country Cup in Venezuela, cruised to a win in the 1,500 metres and clinched silver behind Tachinski in the 800-metre race.

Other standouts included Kelvin junior varsity runner Erin Valgardson, who collected golds in her 1,500-metres and 800-metre races, and Glenlawn’s Chris Crawford, who collected golds in the senior shot put and long jump, as well as a silver in the 60-metre hurdles.

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Some highlights from around the 2016 High School Series Indoor Track and Field Championships:

Triple Gold Club: Victoria Tachinski, Vincent Massey (200m, 400m, 800m); Jack Taylor, St. Paul's (JV 400m, 800m, 1,500m); Matt Indome, St. Paul's (JV 60m, 200m, long jump)

Up'n'Coming: Since taking over as coach of tiny Fisher Branch Collegiate's track and field program four years ago, former Bisons weight-thrower Justin Charrier has built a growing buzz: over a third of the school's 70 students come to practice.

It's paying off. This year, five students from Fisher Branch qualified for the championship meet, along with two from Arborg who now practice with the Fisher Branch program after their previous coach moved on.

They collected five medals: long jump and triple jump silvers for senior Richelande Plett, senior shot-put bronze for Logan Sigvaldson, junior shot-put gold for Keelyn Knowles and silver for Nathan Harding.

Spreading The Love: Each year, a special banner goes to the teams that accumulate the most points in provincial lead-up meets. Usually, one or two schools will dominate the four age and gender categories, Bisons coach Claude Berube said.

Not this time around. This year, Lord Selkirk claimed the senior girls' title, while Kelvin brought home the junior girls banner; Sisler clinched the senior men's top spot, and Garden City finished first overall amongst junior men.

"Schools are putting more effort into indoor track," Berube said. "Teachers are doing a great job motivating kids to come out, and keeping them motivated... there are programs coming up that weren't in the picture before."




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