By CLAUDE SCILLEY
When it came to running fast and jumping far, a young Mavrick Snider didn’t really need a lot of help.
Then came high school, where the track and field teams all had coaches, people trying to help his opponents to get as good as he was. There were also those who saw Snider’s tremendous potential and sought to nurture it, too, but the concept initially was foreign to him.
“It was kind of weird working with a coach,” Snider said the other day. “I’d never done that before.”
Now, he understands.
“I have to be jumping farther,” Snider said last week, after three gold-medal performances at the Kingston Area high school track and field championships.
In a relatively successful Grade 9 season a year ago, Snider advanced to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championship in both the long and triple jumps. He had six first-place performances, combined, in the two events in 2014, including one meet record, and while finishing ninth (in long jump) and tenth (in triple jump) at OFSAA aren’t exactly humbling experiences, those competitions did open Snider’s eyes.
“It takes a lot of hard work to get where you need to be, so I need to put in some more work and hopefully improve by the end of the season,” he said.
“I’m hoping to place top eight (at OFSAA) this year but it’s going to be hard work. I’m improving, but so is everybody else.”
Long-time coach Janey O’Rourke worked a little bit with Snider last year while he attended Napanee District Secondary School, but it wasn’t always easy for him to get to Kingston to practise with her group. Since then, his family moved to Kingston and Snider wound up at Bayridge, where O’Rourke happens to coach.
“We’ve worked a lot this year together,” Snider said. “She’s put a lot of time in with me (working on) technique, run-ups, my power steps. I had a hard time with my run-ups and she put in hours with me, and it came together (at KASSAA).”
With a personal best of 12.50 metres, Snider had what he called an off day in the triple jump, winning at 11.90 metres. “I wasn’t jumping my best,” he said.
It was a different story in long jump, where he improved his personal best 25 centimetres, to 6.38 metres, almost a metre better than what he jumped at the county meet a year ago. “I was feeling it,” he said. “The wind was at my back and I had a really good jump.”
In the 100 metres, Snider prevailed over Thomas Lambert of Sydenham, after finishing behind him in the heats.
“He’s beaten me a few times. I was really surprised when I got him in the final,” Snider said after the race. “I had a good start. We’ve done some work on the blocks in the past couple of weeks and in the last week I’ve put a lot of work into it.”
Snider’s season so far has been noteworthy. He won both jumps at the Limestone Legacy meet, with a meet record in triple jump; he had personal-best performances in both events the following week at the Hungerford Invitational in Brockville, and he extended his PB in triple jump at the Bay of Quinte Invitational in Belleville after that.
“He’s a very gifted athlete,” O’Rourke said. “He’s got serious ability and you can’t teach jumping ability. You just have it.”
You can, however, make the technique better, and being at practice every night makes a big difference, she continued, because rather than dwelling for days on a poor workout, you immediately have a chance to have a good one and put the bad one behind you.
O’Rourke, who also coached Snider’s stepfather, Rick Rodgerson, Jr., when she was at Frontenac and his father, Rick, Sr., in the early days of her career at Kingston Collegiate—“it’s a bit frightening,” she said, “freaky”—says the free-spirited Snider has been a pleasure to work with.
“He can be a bit of a challenge but we’ve seen a huge social change in him from last year to this year,” she said.
“Track keeps him grounded, keeps him positive. He played football, he played basketball, but he’s always thinking about track. That’s his main love, and for me, he is the perfect citizen: He’s positive; he helps the other kids; he doesn’t brag at all. He’s at every practice; he listens to everything I say; does whatever I tell him.
“It’s very nice.”
Snider, who was one of just four athletes to win three individual events at the Kingston Area championships, will be among those who finished in the top four who will be bidding to advance along the OFSAA trail Thursday and Friday at the Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association meet in Brockville.
EOSSAA is the second of three meets that competitors must survive to reach the provincial high school championships in Toronto in June. At this week’s meet athletes must place among the top six to advance to the final qualifier, the East regional, May 28-29, also in Brockville.