Two student athletes about to graduate from Brooks Secondary School are continuing on as teammates, this time with University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Will Rice and Drew Sundberg will join the university’s track and field team this September, in addition to pursuing academic degrees.
The pair began their educational journeys together at the same preschool in Powell River. After attending different elementary schools, their paths crossed once again in high school, as friends and teammates on and off the field for the past five years.
“I've been friends with Will since preschool; we reconnected in Brooks,” said Sundberg, 17, who competes mainly in long jump and triple jump. “I’m extremely happy we became good friends and that we get to move to Saskatchewan together.”
Rice’s specialty is long distance running. The 18-year-old will be part of the university’s cross country team, as well as competing in 3,000 and 5,000 metre track events for the track team.
“Cross country is going to be my focus, that’s what I’m going for; those are eight-kilometre runs,” said Rice. “That season is in October/November and then the track season is in the spring.”
Attending the same university was not preplanned. Rice has known since October, while Sundberg found out recently.
“I had been planning on going there for a long time, but Drew had a couple of options he was still considering,” said Rice, who will pursue a bachelor of science in biology. “I was always trying to make that team and trying to go because of their programs.”
Sundberg received notice that he was accepted three weeks ago.
“It was really late at night; I got the email and forwarded it to my mom, then went upstairs to tell her,” he said. “I was extremely excited.”
Sundberg will study kinesiology, with aspirations to become an athletic therapist. He is taking a wait and see approach to competing at an even higher level after university.
“Going beyond university is the dream,” he said, “but it’ll be hard work and training and just seeing where it goes.”
Rice said he has not set a specific goal to accomplish athletically while at university, or afterward, but his plans include more studying after acquiring a degree.
“The study is why I’m going there, because I want to eventually go to medical school, but it is also competing,” he added. “I want to improve throughout, just improve in general.”
School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in cancellation of the high school track and field season, as far as competition is concerned. While completing grade 12 remotely, Rice and Sundberg are both managing to keep up with training.
“I’m still training with Mr. [Graham] Cocksedge and Drew still trains with Connie Polman Tuin and Scott Glaspey, who are his track coaches, so we are each training with one or two coaches and improving; we just stay six feet apart,” said Rice. “I don't think we’ve lost anything in the training, just not having the race experience, that is a negative effect. Overall the effect is more positive just in the fact that I don’t have to be breaking up my training every time I have a new race.”
Rice runs with Cocksedge at the Timberlane Park track on Mondays and in trails on Wednesdays. Sundberg meets with Polman Tuin and Glaspey on a rotating basis every second day to practice.
“They have been a huge part of my success and I really owe everything to them,” said Sundberg. “I would not be anywhere close to where I am without those two people in my life.”
Rice said all three coaches, as well as Dean Thorsell, have been crucial to their success.
“Mr. Cocksedge has trained with me since grade eight; he is the one who got me interested in running,” added Rice. “Connie and Scott have been super helpful throughout, and Dean Thorsell, even from elementary school, he has been helpful, through motivation and helping me get contact with coaches and just training in general.”
Rice and Sundberg plan to travel to Saskatoon in late August or early September to begin their post-secondary endeavours. Both are aware that the current pandemic may affect when universities return to normal operation.
“We’re just planning on that it will happen and then we’ll see if it does,” said Rice. “I’m sure we won’t find out until later in May what next year holds.”
Sundberg said he looks forward to starting his next academic and athletic challenge with a familiar face among new surroundings.
“He is a great kid to be friends with and I wouldn’t want to go with anyone else,” he added. “Even through competing in different areas, we still connect through the sport, which is great.”