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Pursuit: Catching up with Kaeden Ward (or trying to)

The multi-sport city champion reflects on fitness, competition, the impact of the pandemic on his training and competing and what the future holds
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Lo-Ellen Park Secondary senior Kaeden Ward is a city champion in track and field, cross-country running and nordic skiing.

“My main goal is that I want to stay in shape and fit and mobile as long as I can.”

Lo-Ellen Park senior Kaeden Ward is well on his way when it comes to the lifelong target that he shared recently. A city (SDSSAA) champion in track and field, cross-country running and nordic skiing, the 17-year-old talent is not just about participation ribbons.

“The most enjoyment comes from competing and doing well in competition,” Ward acknowledged. Over the years, that really hasn’t changed a whole lot. 

“The oldest vivid memory I have is being in the Firecracker one-kilometre, right at the end of the race and realizing that I was winning – that was cool,” he said.

Yet for as much as his time in elementary school would also expose him to activities such as volleyball and basketball and that he recalls working hard to improve in both, it really is the lure of running and skiing that keeps calling him home.

There was something about the push that he could receive in his primary sports, athletically speaking, that was tough to recreate elsewhere. 

“I remember kind of an obsessive phase in Grade 7 where I just wanted to make myself feel tired, to make myself feel muscle burn, knowing that was improvement,” Ward said.

By the time he was wearing the purple and black with regularity, his passions were jockeying for top spot on his list of favourite sporting pastimes. 

“In general, throughout high-school, I have put them as equal priorities,” said Ward. “Depending on what time of year it is and what kind of success I am having — or sometimes lack of success — it has flip-flopped a bit.”

As many will attest, the beauty of these dual disciplines lies in the amount of cross-over benefit between seasonal sports, a fact that has not gone unnoticed to the multi-sport champion. 

“With my summertime training, it’s easier to train as a runner,” explained Ward. “Skiers just train a lot more hours, especially in the summertime.

“The last two years, however, I just did a ski program during the summer because I figured it would do well suiting both sports. That said, an easy run can be harder than an easy ski, at least for me anyways. When you’re skiing easy, you can do it really efficiently.”

And for as much as there are many similarities between elements like the training regimen and the physical traits that allow for success in both, there are also some clear-cut differences, most notably on the technical side of each sport.

“The technical component of running is not something that you try and fix that often,” Ward said. “Sometimes, you’re mindful of it, but most of the time, people tend to naturally have good running form.

“With skiing, you can get a lot of improvement from changing your technique. Just this weekend, I noticed that my technique for double polling in classic has become not that good anymore – I definitely need to work on that. That’s something that will get me a lot more improvement than improving some random nuance of running would.”

As is the case for most who embrace physical fitness as a lifestyle choice, the reality for Ward is that not every single day finds him leaping gleefully from his bed, ever so anxious to tackle the next workout that awaits. That reality was even more challenged with the advent of COVID-19.

“Sometimes I am really motivated, but I do get little ruts of de-motivation,” Ward said. “Usually, it’s just temporary. During the first round of COVID, on the running side, I just wasn’t that fast, but I was growing fast and my legs just didn’t want to work.

“For both, it sucked that there wasn’t racing, but the training was fine.”

A competitor by nature, Ward understands that from time to time, his toughest opponent is the young man in the mirror. Several are the races where the joy to be drawn has little or nothing to do with his own personal placement and the whereabouts of his fellow competitors.

“At my OFSAA 3000m, even though I was near the back, it was still a really fast race,” said Ward. “It was a good race experience. And there was the Lakefield O-Cup, on a sunny day with a mass start race. I got second and was happy with that, but it almost wasn’t even about finishing second.

“The race itself was just really memorable; those kind of stick out in my head.”

And if Kaeden Ward has his way, those memories will be joined by a lifetime more, as he runs and skis and pushes himself from one athletic endeavour to the next, for many years to come. 

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.