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Tough choices ahead for track star

Robyn Barwise is coming to a crossroads in her athletic pursuits. Having turned 15 in March, she's at an age where it doesn't matter what sport she tries, she's good at it.
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Robyn Barwise is coming to a crossroads in her athletic pursuits.

Having turned 15 in March, she's at an age where it doesn't matter what sport she tries, she's good at it. But right now there are too many sports on her plate and not enough time, and that's forcing the hand of the Grade 9 Prince George secondary school student.

She's involved in competitive speed skating, wrestling, basketball, volleyball, soccer and track and field and would love to give rugby a try, but something has to give. Track, speed skating and cross-country running will remain prominent on Barwise's priority list, but it seems her days as a wrestler and volleyball player are numbered.

"I do a lot of stuff and I'll probably have to choose right away," Barwise said.

"It's kind of an on-off thing in wrestling. I really like some meets but sometimes I'm just not feeling it. I'm really good at wresting but I think I like speed skating and cross-country running more. I'm better at track, but I've been doing soccer since I was four and it's fun. I think I'll drop volleyball next year."

Barwise moved to Prince George from Mackenzie last September and made great strides on the ice with the Prince George Blizzard speed skating club, finishing third in the province in her age category and eighth at the Western Canadian championships.

Her Prince George address also gave her the chance to train full-time with the Prince George Track and Field Club. But lately, between track workouts and soccer games and practices, all that running has taken a toll and she's developed shin splits from not getting enough rest. If the pain was bothering her, Barwise didn't show it this past weekend at the north central zone track and field championships at Masich Place Stadium. She won the junior/juvenile girls 2,000-metre steeplechase, and the 400m, 800m and 1,500m runs, and also won the juvenile triple jump and competed for PGSS in the 4 X 400m relay race.

"She's just a strong girl, and that comes out on the steeple," said PGTFC coach Brian Martinson.

"She placed very high in our cross-country season as a Grade 9, racing with the seniors. The problem with kids like her is they often overdo it, but that will settle down. She's a tough, multi-sport kid."

With her success at the zone meet, Barwise is now qualified in all her running events for the provincial track and field championships in Nanaimo, June 2-4.

Martinson figures Barwise will be a strong contender in the steeplechase and the 3,000m events at the B.C. Summer Games in Abbotsford, July 21-24. Next year, when she's old enough to compete in the youth category, she will be taking aim at the Canadian Legion national championships.

"She's a little ways off for that, and she has a little work to do to get to that level, but Summer Games will be a good indicator because you get kids from all over the province," said Martinson.

Barwise played on the PGSS junior basketball and volleyball teams and was back on the mats for her sixth season on the high school wrestling scene, where she finished second out of 19 at the B.C. age class meet in Edmonton and qualified for the national finals for the second straight year. She also played school soccer and helped the Polars win bronze at the north central zone triple-A tournament two weeks ago in Quesnel.

Barwise missed two of the three tryouts for the Timberwolves club basketball team due to conflicts with her volleyball and wrestling schedule, and as it turned out she didn't make the team. She considered rugby, but there was no way she could fit it in.

Her wrestling and lacrosse background made her more aggressive and toughened Barwise mentally and physically. That helps her excel in speed skating races and keeps her focused when dealing with the pressure of serving a volleyball in a close game. She's added four inches of height in two years and continues to get stronger and develop endurance - a key to her victory in the steeplechase Saturday.

"That was my second steeplechase and I really like it - I like long distance," she said. "I think steeple is my favourite to compete in at track meets. It's challenging and just different from anything else."

Barwise's father Ken coached her in lacrosse and is coaching the PGSS track and wrestling teams. He says she's always had a strong work ethic, which also shows in her grades at school, and from an early age she's shown her passion for playing sports.

"She played lacrosse until two years ago, when size (compared to the boys) made a big difference and then she switched to competitive soccer," Ken said. "She's always had the lung capacity and her wrestling was awesome this year but I think she's going to quit it, which is too bad because it's probably the sport she's best at."

Now that she's into her mid-teens, picking one or two sports as her specialty is necessary for her to stay competitive with her peers at the highest level.

"In speed skating she's realizing that the girls who are ahead of her - and she's starting to close that gap - are only speed skating, and it's killing her to choose, but she's going to have to choose," said Ken.