Dynamic duo takes Hyacks to great heights
Raquel Tjernagel and Nina Schultz are quiet teenagers who made some big noise, and history, last week.
The two phenoms, individually and together, led the New Westminster Hyacks to the school’s first-ever team title in the B.C. High School Track and Field Championships.
Tjernagel won the 100- and 200-metre sprints while Schultz took the heptathlon, high jump and triple jump titles. What’s mind blowing is they’ll be back next year because Tjernagel is in Grade 11 and Schultz in Grade 10.
Tjernagel has been running since Grade 3. Now she’s the fastest girl in B.C. Fittingly, she’s a member of the Coquitlam Cheetahs Track Club which she joined in Grade 9.
“I’ve always liked running,” says Tjernagel. “I wasn’t super good when I was younger. I just always liked to run.”
But after joining the Cheetahs she took off. “As the years have gone by I just got better and better, and I realized I was coming in first. I knew I was good at it and it was sort of fun. It was different than soccer.”
Although she’s played that game for most of her youth she’s cut back because of her track success.
At last year’s provincial high school championship she won the 200 metres despite being only in Grade 10. She won it again this year, and added the 100-metre title to boot with a time of 11.93 seconds.
LEFT: Jumper/heptathlete Nina Schultz and sprinter Raquel Tjernagel won five individual gold medals between them as well being part of New Westminster secondary’s 4x400 relay team at the provincial high school track and field championships last weekend.
“My goal was to beat 12 seconds, and I did it so I was happy with that,” says Tjernagel, whose father is Norwegian and mother Barbadian.
Her cousin Aaron Brown is a sprinter for the University of Southern California and ran for Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Schultz has a track pedigree too. Her grandfather, Duan Qiyan, was a high jump coach after being the 1959 Chinese junior champion. Her grandmother, Zheng Fengrong, set a world high jump record of 1.77 metres in 1957 using the old scissors or straddle technique.
Schultz won the high jump with a leap of 1.75 metres, which was a personal best. She bashfully admitted that her grandmother, who was one of eight athletes chosen to carry the Olympic flag at the 2008 opening ceremonies in Beijing, still rubs it in that Schultz hasn’t jumped higher than she did.
“She always tells me to do the best I can do and compete with myself,” says Schultz.
Schultz was in Grade 4 when her elementary school run club coach recruited her. He’d seen her in PE classes and told her she had a good running technique.
“I was really energetic as a kid. I just loved running and sports in general,” says Schultz.
She started to sense she might be pretty good when her coaches started to get serious.
“Then I knew I had potential to go somewhere with this,” says Schultz, who trains with the New West Spartans track club.
She won the meet’s heptathlon competition held the week before because it involves competitors accumulating points over seven events. Schultz had to be coerced into competing in it because she doesn’t enjoy one of its events, the 800 metres.
“I’m not good with long distance. It’s just really tough to run two laps at a fast pace,” says Schultz. “I knew I had to do it, but I didn’t want to.”
But she did it for the team.
In total there were 10 athletes that contributed points to New West’s overall victory.
Traditionally, NWSS has not been a top 10 contender. But two years ago the Hyacks finished fifth and last year fourth. So to be in the running for first was exciting.
The clincher, although they didn’t know it at the time, came when Tjernagel and Schultz joined Amanda Zacharuk and Emily Chilton to win the 4x400 metre relay.
“That was a highlight for us. The girls worked hard to improve their time with each race and they were thrilled to get under four minutes,” says coach Bryan MacMaster.
Confirmation of their crown came during the closing ceremonies when the announcer said they edged out perennial powerhouse Oak Bay 89-88.
Schultz, Tjernagel and MacMaster were ecstatic.
“We were kind of hoping, but we just hung around just in case,” says MacMaster.
When they returned to school this week the congratulations came from all over the campus. At the front of the line was long-time track coach Christine McNulty who has championed track and field for decades at the school and in the region.
“For me it was just coming into the right place at the right time. I just feel blessed to be part of it,” says MacMaster.
“I’ve really enjoyed watching them compete. They’re really talented, and what’s special about them is their modesty. They’re talented athletes but they’re humble.”
• Two NWSS boys hit the podium. Ethan Strome won the 400-m hurdles and Bogdan Pavel coming second in the 110-m hurdles. The boys 4x100 relay team was third.