She and her coach Harlis Meaders weren’t jumping around and yelling for nothing. Whalen says people were looking at her and her coach like they were crazy. Soon enough, though, some of her teammates joined the impromptu celebration.
The Florida State University (FSU) student and athlete, originally from Liverpool, became the first female shot putter in Nova Scotia track and field history on Jan. 21 to break the 15-metre mark. On the same day, Whalen was named the 2011 junior female track and field athlete of the year. Whalen is also ranked first in Canada and first in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Division with that throw.
Getting to that two-day meet at the Birmingham Crossplex was no easy feat. The shot put and javelin thrower didn’t click her heels together three times and repeat: “There’s no place like Birmingham.”
Hitting the field
It all began as a social thing.
“My friends were doing it, so I wanted to, too,” says Whalen in an email interview.
That was in Grade 7 at South Queens Junior High School in Liverpool. Whalen says she tried throwing because she didn’t want to run.
What started as a way to socialize quickly became something much more serious.
“I didn’t really like it at first,” says Whalen about throwing. “I was thinking about giving it up, but I’ve never been one to give up sports.”
And with her parents’ encouragement, Whalen did not give up.
She and her father Jeffery would go online to watch videos. They would also go to the field to practice.
“After a while, I started to get the hang of it,” she says.
Whalen describes herself as a competitive person, someone who does whatever she can to get better. In her first year of throwing, Whalen won provincials. She continued to win until she graduated from Liverpool Regional High School.
Steve Wohlmuth, head coach of Launchers Athletics in Port Williams, N.S., would agree with Whalen.
“She’s a very competitive person. She’s won major championships on her last throw maybe two or three times,” he says.
Wuhlmouth invited Whalen to join his throws club in 2006, when Whalen was about 13 year old. He had seen her recent success and wanted to help her go further in the sport.
“I wrote her a recruitment letter saying that I think she could do a lot of great things,” says Wohlmouth, who’s been running the club since 2000.
Before long, Whalen began to compete at national meets, and then World Youth and World Junior championships.
Dream to reality
“I had dreamed of taking track to the next level in ninth grade,” says Whalen.
She wanted to go to the United States for school because of the programs for student athletes.
Following a Disney meet in Florida in 2008, Whalen met the coach from FSU and told him how much she wanted to go there.
Three years later, she was faced with the challenge of deciding where to go to school. She went with FSU, her original choice.
Whalen doesn’t get much leisure time during a typical day in Tallahassee, Fla.
At about 8:15 in the morning, Whalen wakes to get ready for her 9:30 class. At noon, she bikes to her apartment and has lunch before heading to a 3 p.m. practice.
She’s training for the indoor season at this time of year, so she has a shot put practice followed by conditioning, which could be working with a medicine ball, running stairs, or doing short sprints or an obstacle course.
From there it’s time for the weight room.
“Then I’ll hop back on my trusty bike and go home to my apartment,” she says.
At her apartment, it might be hers or her roommate’s turn to make dinner. With dinner finished, the bachelor-of-science student, who’s majoring in sports management, does her homework.
Before turning in for the night, Whalen talks with her parents and friends on Skype. She’s out of bed at the same time the next day to begin again.
Though Whalen was away from home for a year in Grade 10, she says moving to another country was a different story.
“I guess it’s a part of growing up, getting out on your own and learning how to do things for yourself,” she says.
Whalen hears from her parents regularly and chats with them nightly, but she admits there are times it’s difficult to have them more than 3,000 kilometres away.