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Pursuit: Jumper Caroline Ehrhardt breaks Canadian record

A track and field phenom as a local high school athlete, Ehrhardt still competes and says serving as a coach and mentor to other young athletes has actually improved her own performance

Long ago, Caroline Ehrhardt had pretty much mastered the triple jump. Ironically, it was a side step into the realm of coaching that, to a large degree, has allowed the 31-year-old Espanola native the chance to soar to a whole other level.

A week ago Sunday, the graduate of Western University who continues to train and compete — and coach — as a member of the London Western Track & Field Club unleashed a personal best jump of 14.03 metres, out-distancing by one centimetre the Canadian record Tabia Charles set in 2007.

While being injury-free early this season — Ehrhardt has seen her past three seasons derailed to a certain extent by that — has helped her along, it’s her side gig as a mentor to a handful of young athletes who are following in her footsteps that has really allowed her to surge forward, in her mind anyways.

“That has probably been the biggest change, the biggest difference-maker for me in being able to accomplish this,” Ehrhardt said last week, only beginning to ease herself back into a normal sleep pattern. “It’s not just the fact that I have educated myself more, have become a student of the sport again, so that I can help the athletes that I work with.

“It’s in an even greater scheme of things.”

Always one who has thrived on an incredible work ethic, but also holding herself to a standard few could duplicate, Ehrhardt has benefitted from a “less is more” adjustment to her training,  and her competitive mindset.

“This has forced me to level up, as a person; I have become so much kinder to myself,” she said. “I realized that if I could have the same self-talk to myself as the type of support that I give to these kids around me, it would be a game changer for me.”

“If I have a bad day, I am able to let it roll off my shoulders a lot more,” said the nine-time Canadian champion. “It’s funny that it is so obvious to me as an outsider when somebody else is going through it, but yet I am so quick to be so hard on myself. This has really changed my perspective about what’s helpful (to me) as an athlete and what’s not.”

It doesn’t hurt to have an enthusiastic support group of a 100 athletes or more cheering her on.

“Knowing that there’s this group of kids that look up to me is so motivating, makes me want to do so much better.”

Not only did Ehrhardt have the support of the track and field club as she tore down the Western University track at the Bob Vigars Classic at the end of May, she had other support, too. 

“A difference-maker … was that I had a lot of loved ones who were there watching,” Ehrhardt said. “With it being a local meet, I had a lot of people who were actually coming to see me jump for the first time in years. That was really special.”

With a solid field of a dozen or so jumpers on hand, including the likes of Asia Phillips (13.13m) and Tolu Akinduro (12.89m), Ehrhardt knew the size of the crowd was just right for her.

“I very much have a sweet spot,” she said. “I don’t necessarily need it to be a huge meet with thousands of people watching in order for me to perform at my best. But it’s also really hard psychologically when it is a twilight meet with four other people here.”

Other than the coaching factor, the biggest adjustment for Ehrhardt — who won multi-gold medals at OFSAA and Canadian Juniors competitions over the years — has been a drastic decrease in workouts and training. 

“I am probably doing 50 per cent of the work volume I have been doing for the past 10 years,” she said. “But never have I felt healthier and able to jump pain-free.”

Starting her season with a wind-aided jump of 13.80 metres in California was encouraging, but Ehrhardt has been around long enough to know that for as much as everything pointed to this record being achievable, nothing is cast in stone.

“I have spent the past 18 years wanting 14 metres from a very hopeful place, whereas this past month, it feels like it was coming from a place of deep conviction. I knew that is what was going to happen.

“But even if you’re in the best shape of your life and you know that you’re capable, the stars still need to kind of align for you. I needed the conditions to be right; I needed the wind to be right; and I needed to wake up that morning physiologically able to do that.”

In the end, Caroline Ehrhardt the coach could not be any prouder of Caroline Ehrhardt the athlete – and that is a great place to be. 

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


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