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In June 1994, while a freshman at Lo-Ellen Park High School, Sarah Junkin won a bronze medal in the midget girls 80-meter hurdles at the OFSAA Track and Field Championships, finishing sixth in the 100-meter final. , also.

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Still, it was clear, at least to Dick Moss and Julie Alleyn, that there was much more to the eldest of three children in her family, athletically speaking.

Sarah Junkin was a heptathlete.

Athletically, academically, spiritually, there was no way for this now very introspective 42-year-old Guelph resident to be forced into a single chase, a base layer, in any part of her life.

Where even Sudbury’s most gifted grade 9 track and field athletes could work their way through three or four different skill sets, Junkin was that outlier who was much more at home in the field of athletics that combines no less than seven distinct disciplines.

It’s part of his DNA, on so many levels.

“I was the trailblazer (of the family), the one who blazed the trail, strongly persistent in getting through things without fear – although perhaps very naively,” she said.

Sportingly, the signs were all there.

“My mom said I run before I walk,” Junkin said with a laugh. “I was so hyper, my mom used to time me running around the house. I remember begging my parents to join as many sports as possible. I wanted to do everything.

From an ancestral perspective, there was a lineage of speed and power, the very heart of the heptathlete, that runs through the Junkin family tree. If genetics are part of that picture, so is the cosmic alignment of fate, the almost unfathomable collision of fate and circumstance that saw the young prodigy meet the right supportive people at the right time – at least three separate occasions.

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“I ran into Dick Moss, maybe at an elementary school reunion,” Junkin suggested. “I remember setting the Grade 8 100m record and Dick suggested we do hurdles. I was also trying rhythmic gymnastics, and it’s a bit of a convoluted story, but it helped make me a great hurdler as I was working on my flexibility.

Even more critical, however, was the added presence of Julie Alleyn, a national-caliber heptathlete in the early 1980s, who traveled to Sudbury just before she started high school.

“I was so lucky, because I had the greatest long term athletic development, kind of accidentally, from some great coaches,” Junkin said.

“I have never known this burnout.”

What Junkin experienced, during his time as a knight, was the best of both worlds.

A well-diversified training program, which saw Coach Moss and the athlete learning on parallel paths, laid the groundwork for a performance at the Junior Nationals that saw Junkin don the Canadian jersey and d ‘accompany his compatriots in Holland during his last year at Lo-Ellen.

Much closer to home, legendary LEP athletics mentors Joe Bacon and Doug Gingrich allowed her to contribute graciously to the team, in any way possible, without hampering the specter of workouts that favored those seeking to master. the 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin and 800 meters – all simultaneously.

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The environment matched Junkin to a T.

“I have always explored creatively,” she noted. “Wherever there was a place to challenge myself, I always seemed to. I had the right to do so many things, I had so much freedom.

Even a two-year stint at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a period that ultimately left Junkin athletically dissatisfied, was not without many benefits and life lessons.

“I don’t regret it at all, partly because of the cultural experiences – and the academics were good,” she said. “There were a lot of Canadians on the team, but there wasn’t really a heptathlon program at school.

And when the time came for a change, Junkin didn’t need to look further than an acquaintance she had made in Holland, a Canadian track and field coach who enjoys legendary status in his home province of Saskatchewan.

“I knew from day one he met that he was my coach,” Junkin said. “I thought maybe my career was over before I even really started – but Lyle (Sanderson) was my beacon. Like Dick, like Julie, like everyone I have been in contact with, Lyle could tap the potential, support you and help you.

Junkin spent four years competing with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the final four years of the coach’s career who was inducted into the Canadian Track and Field Hall of Fame, as well as the Hall of Fame. Saskatchewan sports fame. Three of those years, the Huskies’ women’s team won the national banner.

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The remaining year, 2001-02, Junkin won a USIC gold medal, finishing first in the pentathlon. She was also part of two gold medal relay teams at U of S.

“I was still so lucky,” she said. “I was moving towards a culture very similar to the one I was used to in Sudbury. I really clung to this culture, which was wide open, without limits, anything is possible. It corresponded to my personal freedom.

In the approximately two decades since his last competition, Junkin has come full circle in Saskatchewan. Her work with Sask Sport has allowed her to get involved in countless facets on the outskirts of athletics in the province, which she said was the best thing that has ever happened to her.

Teacher, lawyer, administrator and more, Junkin has it all. At the heart of this next phase of her journey was an introduction to yoga, mental training, as well as a friendship and partnership with Patricia Dewar – “my Yoga Lyle” as she has nicknamed her.

“I have been so lucky in sports, I have been so fortunate academically, and then I have been so fortunate spiritually,” Junkin said.

And when she realized that her life was “no longer aligned”, that she “needed to let go and recalibrate”, it was time to go home and go back to Ontario.

“I chose a sabbatical which turned out to be a bit more permanent than expected,” she said.

The pandemic has caused many people to reassess their life path. Junkin just started this process a little earlier. The end goal is not yet clear, as the Northern product envisions life after life after sport.

“I was guided to choose this,” she said. “I’m supposed to keep exploring. “

Randy Pascal’s column, this Sudbury Sports Guy, is regularly published in The Sudbury Star.

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