The first time Jaelyn Cole tried running over a hurdle in Grade 9 she took off at full speed.
“(My coach) thought I was going to wipe out,” she said with a laugh. “There’s an adrenaline rush running up to a hurdle and I think that kind of made the race for me.”
The Grade 12 student at Northern Collegiate has come a long way since that first practice in the school hallway. This fall she is headed to the NCAA Division 1 program at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania on an almost full-ride scholarship.
Cole will compete in the 60, 100 and 400 metre disciplines of the sport she said was “love at first sight.”
Recruiters took note of the OFSAA bronze medals she won in hurdles in both Grades 9 and 10. In her first year, at the all-Ontario championships in Toronto, she was also the youngest member of Northern’s 4×400-metre relay squad, which also made the finals.
“It was a really, really amazing experience to be able to be on that team,” she said.
Athleticism runs in the Cole family. Jaelyn’s older sister Aubrey Cole plays hockey with Mercyhurst University, also in Pennsylvania, which went undefeated at home last year for the first time in that NCAA school’s history.
Their father Lee Cole played in the Ontario Hockey League, and mom Crista Cole is a national jump rope champion.
Jaelyn was courted by several universities but settled on St. Francis because of its atmosphere and welcoming coaches, she said.
“I had a pretty good relationship with a lot of the coaches. (They) just made me feel like they wanted me to go there.”
Despite the outstanding track results, Cole has faced challenges. She suffered a concussion in Grade 9, contracted mononucleosis in Grade 10, and her Grade 11 season was cut short by the global pandemic.
“I was expecting to (have) a pretty good personal best, (keep) getting better and hopefully get some really good times out there. Unfortunately, cut short again,” she said.
Cole said she plans to study marketing at university and become a professional athlete.
“That’s always been my goal. I think I’m definitely going to shoot for it and see how things go.”