When Chestermere High School was handing out its annual awards, Katelyn Smith was given a little memory test.
How many provincial championships were there over her time as a varsity athlete?
Well there were the two times she helped the Lakers girls basketball team make it, in her Grade 10 and 12 seasons.
Every year she qualified for the cross-country running final, so that’s another three provincials she attended.
And of course she finished every school year by running in the 1,500-metre race in track and field provincials.
That makes eight total, and it sets a record for a CMS athlete. On June 6, the high school held its awards banquet and Smith was recognized for this achievement, plus was given her third straight Roy King Award for track and then the Principal’s Athletic Award for combining academics with athletics and citizen.
“It’s exciting because you don’t expect things like that,” said Smith’s mother Janet Gibb. “It was a nice way to end high school. It’s a nice surprise and she’s worked hard for all the things she has received.”
Smith’s first love is basketball, and at a young age she became part of a group of about 11 girls who stayed together all the way through club and school teams until they graduated together this spring.
That group went undefeated in league play during their high school years and finished 13th this season in provincials.
It was later she took up running, participating in cross-country and track and taking to running right away, even though it’s a much different mindset competing in that compared to basketball.
“It’s different because you are only accountable to yourself in individual sports,” Smith said. “There’s only you there to push yourself. With a team, you get it from yourself and your team as well.”
Smith feels she learned unique things from each sport, and each had its benefits.
“The biggest thing for basketball is the friendships and bonds I’ve created over the years. My team has become my family,” Smith said. “In running, it’s another way to challenge myself. I push myself to the limits and see what I can do.”
As a mother, Gibb got to watch her daughter grow throw each event and each trip to the take on the best in the province.
A lot of that growing was through overcoming the hurdles sport offers, and it was most evident in cross-country running.
“She had never run a hill when she went to her first zones in Grade 9,” Gibb said. “It was in Canmore and it was quite the shock. That’s the challenge of the terrain, tripping over branches and logs … those sort of things happen in cross-country. You have to be ready for snowstorms.”
Although the school years have been extremely busy, Gibb can’t see any negatives in Smith pursuing so many different activities.
“It’s given her a focus on things she needs to be doing,” Gibb said. “It keeps her organized. If you have a lot of outside stuff, you need to get you things done at school and make it to practices and stuff. I
“t’s given her an outlet. She’s been able to go run around a track and let out some steam. She loves challenging herself and this gives her a way to challenge herself physically instead of mentally in school. There are many positive things.”
Smith might not be participating in competitive athletics as she gets ready to head off to university in the fall. She’s heading into the arts program at the University of British Columbia, but that doesn’t mean everything she’s learned through sport won’t help her along the way.
“It’s been so helpful in teaching me life lessons,” Smith said. “You have to work in order to succeed. It shows you how to make bonds with people. I don’t think my life would be the same if it wasn’t sports.
“I’m a pretty short person. In basketball, things aren’t always easy for a 5-foot-2 person. I have to get my shot blocked to realize I need to take a better shot. Those things have been helpful. Not everything is going to go smoothly. You have to learn from it.
“In running, it’s not an easy thing to do sometimes. You are running up a giant hill, so mentally you asking yourself if you can really do it or is it even worth it. You have to think about how much you have worked for it and how you will feel afterwards. That’s helped me translate to the rest of my life, how I feel about my accomplishments.”
And now that her high school athletic career is done, she can look back on it fondly, although that is still strange for her not to be looking forward to the next event.
“I think I will miss it,” Smith said. “I don’t know how much I will miss it quite yet. It will probably hit me soon.”