Georgia Ellenwood didn’t have to go far for her first major competition, but it served as a launching point which has taken her to countries around the world.
She was a 14-year-old track and field athlete when the BC Summer Games were held in the Township of Langley in 2010.
“I think that was the first time I was away from my parents and staying with the team, so that was super exciting,” she said.
“I remember I was super nervous — I was young and socially awkward.”
With the BC Summer Games set to begin in Abbotsford next week (July 21 to 24) — Langley is hosting two of the events — Ellenwood reflected on her own memories of the Games.
Games were first big competition
She was back in Langley last month, in between competitions as her track season winds down. Ellenwood’s message to this year’s crop of athletes is simple.
“Just soak up the experience. I know it is about the competition, but you will meet everyone who has the same passion as you do and has the same excitement that you do,” she said.
“I think the best part of it is being in the same environment where everyone has the same passion for the sport.”
During competition in 2010, Ellenwood joined the other athletes from around the province, with her chemistry classroom at Langley Secondary serving as her dormitory.
“What I remember is, it was the first time I had to focus on track, but also being in a really fun social situation.
“I am in those kinds of situations all the time now, but that was the first,” Ellenwood explained.
To add to her excitement, the Langley teen was also chosen as one of the torch bearers, carrying the flame into McLeod Athletic Park for the opening ceremonies.
“How do I hold it, what do I wear, do I run fast or slow?” she remembers thinking.
“That was very nerve-wracking because I knew it was a big part of the Games.”
But while this may have been a new experience for Ellenwood, she quickly showed she belonged, winning the gold in all four of her events — 200m hurdles, high jump, long jump and the 4×400 relay.
For her efforts, she was also presented the W.R. Bennett Award for Athletic Excellence as the top performer of the competition.
Georgia Ellenwood then (left) — she won the W.R. Bennett Award for Athletic Excellence at the 2010 BC Summer Games in the Township of Langley — and now, as a 20-year-old, proudly displaying the four gold medals she won as an athlete at the 2010 Games. The medals were a springboard to an NCAA scholarship and a chance to represent Canada internationally.
With so many athletes from all of the different sports, Ellenwood was not expecting the award.
“I am still humbled today by everything that has happened,” she said. “That was the first time I realized I can do well in this sport.”
The Bennett Award came with a $2,500 bursary to support her training and competition.
And it has been money well spent, helping launch a storied track and field career which continues to this day for Ellenwood, who turns 21 next month.
Before leaving for university, Ellenwood won four consecutive B.C. high school senior girls heptathlon titles. She finished with 13 medals — 10 gold and three silver — over four years at Langley Secondary.
Track and field career has seen Ellenwood compete in seven countries by age 21
This weekend, Ellenwood is in El Salvador for the NACAC (North America Central America Caribbean Association) U23 championships.
Counting Canada and the United States — she attends the University of Wisconsin on a track and field scholarship and holds the school record with 5,935 points in the heptathlon — Ellenwood has now competed in seven countries. France, Spain, Colombia, South Korea and El Salvador are the others.
“I am just trying to see as many countries as I can. It has been really exciting and I think that helps me with my passion,” she said.
“You never what to expect or where you might go.”
Coach knew success would come
It was after meeting one of her coaches with the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club, Kim Chapdelaine, that Ellenwood first thought about using her sport as a means to see the world.
“She told me about all the places she had gone with the national team and I remember thinking ‘I just want to be good enough to travel with them,’” Ellenwood said.
Chapdelaine began coaching Ellenwood when she was 13 years old, and continued through the teen’s high school years.
The coach was reluctant to take Ellenwood on at first. With a focus on high performance athletes, she wanted Ellenwood to be a little bit older and to enjoy other sports before committing to track and field.
But she agreed to meet with the teenager and quickly knew she had someone special.
“I knew right from the start,” Chapdelaine said.
“From that age, she displayed the characteristics of a champion. A very hard worker, very focused. You just knew right away she was going to be good.”