Princess Alexandra Grade 7 student Madison McPhee started training with the high school students and NWT track coach Joe LeBlanc two years ago and hasn’t looked back since.
“I wasn’t too sure when I started training at the high school,” she told The Hub shortly after winning the Bantam girls 400-metre race at last week’s NWT Track and Field Championships. “But I’m really glad I did.”
McPhee came in second overall in her division, but said she was happy with her performance. Despite having started training at a higher level last year, she said this is the first season she has started to focus on health and training outside working out.
“I feel like I’ve trained better than before,” she said, adding that the long-distance work was perhaps the most valuable. “For this whole meet I’ve been really healthy – no burgers, no junk food, nothing – and you can really feel the difference.”
Head coach for the territorial track team Joe LeBlanc said it’s all up to McPhee.
“She’s here doing this because she wants it,” he said. “For someone in Grade 7, she’s making some incredibly good decisions.”
LeBlanc’s team at Diamond Jenness Secondary School meets up twice a week for track-specific workouts, and a few other times every week for general fitness training. McPhee and the other PA students who made the jump to train with the big kids only go out for the former, but that still represents a commitment few their age are willing to make.
“She’s outstanding,” LeBlanc said of McPhee. “A lot of it is natural, but she’s learning. She’s coachable, and other athletes and coaches are noticing her speed.”
He added that McPhee would not be breaking her own records earned on a rubber track at meets such as last week’s events on a dirt track, but that didn’t stop her from pushing to do so anyway.
“She has a really good balance of healthy competitiveness,” he said.
McPhee’s father agrees, but said one of the best things about his daughter is how down to earth she is, despite reasonably quick success at a young age.
“I remember the conversation Joe had with her grade when he came in to talk to them about joining the track team,” said Glen McPhee. “He said that he would train every one of them if they wanted to come out, but that it took dedication and commitment and hard work … Maddy really took that to heart.”
McPhee said for now, her season is pretty much over, though she wouldn’t say no to going to a few meets in the south if the timing was right. She said she wants to better her times and get better at running longer distances.
“This season has been great,” she said. “But there’s always room to be better and do more.”