Young city high jumper adopts Derek Drouin’s mental approach

Sarnia’s Sebastian Smith, 18, competing at the 2017 Canadian Track and Field Championships in Ottawa. Bruce Smith, Special to The Journal

Troy Shantz

There were few early signs that Sarnia’s Sebastian Smith would become a provincial high jump champion.

While in elementary school, Smith attended a summer camp where one of his coaches was Derek Drouin, the Corunna native and future Olympic gold medalist in high jump.

Drouin showed him a few things, and even gave him an old pair of his track spikes.

But Smith says he just wasn’t that interested.

Sebastian Smith won a gold medal in high jump at the Ontario high school track championships. Bruce Smith, Special to The Journal

Sebastian Smith won a gold medal in high jump at the Ontario high school track championships.
Bruce Smith, Special to The Journal

But over the past year, the 18-year-old Northern Collegiate grad has put together a season that would make any athlete proud.

It began when he set a personal best in high jump of 2.05 metres at a Hamilton meet last fall, and continued at the Southwestern Ontario finals this spring, when he medalled in both high jump and 110-metre hurdles.

Though a newcomer to hurdles, he finished just 0.03 seconds off a new regional record.

At the all-Ontario high school track and field championships, he cleared 2.05M to win high jump gold, but was unable to hurdle because of a scheduling conflict.

Smith, who is attending the University of Guelph this fall, was encouraged by Guelph’s track coach to attend the Athletics Ontario U20 Championship, where he again took gold.

He followed that with silver at the Pan Am and Canada Summer Games qualifiers in June, missing at a height 2.06M — the cutoff for the Canadian junior track team.

“Of course it was a bummer,” he said, “just knowing that you’ve made that height before. But there’s going to be plenty of opportunities, and it’s always just do my best and compete against myself.”

His season ended July 9 at the Canadian Track and Field Championships, where Smith, competing in the U20 high jump event, had an off day, and finished fifth.

Smith said his coaches at Northern emphasized track and field as a team sport, and that has led to a number of lasting friendships.

“I loved being with the team I was on and I hope that kind of continues,” said Smith, who will be a member of Guelph’s track team this fall.

“Even though you compete individually, it is a team sport and you can go make friends.”

Smith, the son of local photographer and Sarnia Journal contributor Bruce Smith, plans to study art in first year.

Though he shot some photos for Northern’s yearbook two years in a row, Smith isn’t sure where his career path lies.

Much of high jump is a mental game, he added, describing the approach that Drouin uses. The Canadian Olympic hero raises the bar higher than he can jump and pictures himself clearing it, Smith said.

“I think everyone’s just gotta raise the bar higher than they believe they can, and imagine themselves being successful.”