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Jaclyn Groom is a girl who can fly

For those who follow local track and field results, it's hard not to get excited about the exploits of Jaclyn Groom.
Jaclyn Groom is a tall 14-year-old high school freshman with an uncanny ability to propel herself through the air. Photo by Randy Pascal

For those who follow local track and field results, it's hard not to get excited about the exploits of Jaclyn Groom.

The 14-year-old Lively native is coming off a summer where she captured gold in the triple jump at the Athletics Ontario Bantam Championships, was ranked in the top three in the country at one point, and with jumps exceeding 11 metres, is soaring roughly a metre and a half beyond what four-time reigning national champion Caroline Ehrhardt was covering at the same age.

Yet, the soft-spoken youngest of two girls seems to be taking it all in stride — granted her stride is much longer than your average stride.

In spite of her natural ability in the triple jump, there is little guarantee, at this point, that this will be "the" sport for Jaclyn. About to enter high school, she's also an avid basketball player.

Her natural track abilities aside, she's not sure about straying too far from her hardcourt roots to shine on the track.

"I started with basketball when I was seven or eight," she said. "My mom and dad were coaching me (in Walden Youth Basketball). We have a basketball net here, so I was out practicing, always playing around. I just found it more fun than soccer."

Track and field success would soon follow though.

"I remember in Grade 3 at Jessie Hamilton (Public School), they had races where we just lined up and ran through the soccer field,” Jaclyn said. “I ended up winning. From there, it kept getting better and better, and then I got noticed by Track North."

For good reason. By the time she had reached Grade 6, Groom had cleared 1.50 metres in the high jump and was posting 200-metre sprint times slightly faster than four-time OFSAA track & field medal winner Rebecca Johnston, during her time at MacLeod Public.

While some very gifted young athletes struggle as they test themselves in a variety of disciplines, Jaclyn seems to do it with ease.

"During gym class, we would practice, and one of the teachers made a little club of kids who could jump the best," she said.

Arcing over the bar into a graceful Fosbury Flop just came naturally to her.

"When they talk about it and you see how it's done, it kind of makes more sense … It wasn't that difficult," Jaclyn said.

During the summer of 2013, coach Jim Taylor suggested Jaclyn try launching herself more horizontally, rather than vertically, by taking a stab at the long jump and triple jump. After a winter of indoor training, she was ready for the jumping pits at Laurentian.

"We started realizing that my better events were the jumps," said Jaclyn. "I have a big step phase, for my age, because I have longer legs, and I'm just springier when I come off the board."

With a leap of 11.02 metres at the Nipissing Invitational, the Grade 8 student from Lively Public propelled herself farther than any other female triple jumper during the 2013 city championships. Seeing as though she was giving up six years on the most senior of those competitors, the performance turned more than a few heads.

For good measure, Jaclyn stretched out her personal best jump to 11.16 metres at a Rainbow meet a few weeks later, shattering the record Ehrhardt set in 2006 and posting a new standard that was more than four feet further.

"I didn't think it was that big a deal," Jaclyn said. "I just went out and jumped. I had no clue that 11 metres was that good."

She does now. But as she readies herself for life at Lockerby Composite, the high-school freshman is at least as excited about the possibility of playing flag football alongside older sister Jordan as she is about the potential that she possesses in both basketball and track and field.

For now, at least, she will be content to let others imagine where that may take her.