Kelowna's Watts-Watling Hawaii bound

Coming off a bronze medal at the national junior championships, Keely Watts-Watling is preparing for her freshman season at the University of Hawaii.  - Warren Henderson/Capital News
Coming off a bronze medal at the national junior championships, Keely Watts-Watling is preparing for her freshman season at the University of Hawaii.
— image credit: Warren Henderson/Capital News

If her first showing at the national junior level is a sign of things to come, then Kelowna's Keely Watts-Watling appears fit and ready for the next big step in her career on the track.

The 18-year-old KSS grad is coming off a medal-winning performance at the Canadian combined championships earlier this month in Ottawa.

In two weeks, Watts-Watling will travel to Honolulu to prepare for her first season with the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine women's track and field team.

"It's exciting," said Watts-Watling. "When I first started in (track and field) that was my goal, to get a scholarship. To be able to compete at that level will be a dream come true. I'm looking forward to it."

Competing at the NCAA level will admittedly be a considerable step up, but Watts-Watling will head to Hawaii with some confidence on her side after winning the bronze medal in national junior heptathlon two weeks ago in Ottawa.

The highlights for Watts-Watling included a PB (14.59 seconds) and second overall finish the 100 hurdles, a first-place showing in the shot-put, and a PB in the javelin.

When all was said and done, she finished the seven-event competition with 4,853 points, just 26 points out of the silver medal position.

"It felt really good," Watts-Watling said of her performance. "I came in ranked 11th, so to win a medal was really nice. I was happy to prove the rankings wrong."

A nagging shoulder injury over the past couple of seasons has tested Watts-Watling's resolve and, despite some struggles, the multi-talented athlete has found ways to persevere.

Last year, she captured national gold in youth heptathlon. Watts-Watling's coach, Pat Sima Ledding, said a bronze this summer in her first Canadian junior competition is a performance worthy of attention.

"Her tenacity is commendable," said Sima-Ledding the head coach of the Okanagan Athletics Club. "She has come through a couple of challenging seasons and has been able to put it all together. The jump from youth to junior is a big one, so for her to get bronze at this level is quite incredible."

As for Watts-Watling's impending move to Hawaii, her Kelowna coach couldn't be more excited.

"I'm thrilled for her, I think it's going to be an amazing experience," she said. "To be able to compete in a Div. 1 environment is a wonderful opportunity. (University of) Hawaii is very athlete-centred and I'm thrilled that she's finally going to gave a 12-month season to train and compete."

Canadian-born Carmen James will coach Watts-Watling at the University of Hawaii, where she'll be enrolled in the kinesiology program.


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