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U SPORTS GOLDEN SERIES: Four Ottawa female student-athletes won U Sports championships in three different sports during the 2021-22 university varsity season. Their stories will be presented here this week. Here is Part 1 of 4:
By Martin Cleary
Jacqueline Madogo always saw herself as a soccer player.
She started when she was six years ago, entered a high level of competitive soccer at 12, was coached three years by Olympian Kristina Kiss at the West Ottawa Soccer Club and played in one Ontario Youth Soccer Cup semifinal.
The University of Guelph soccer program recognized Madogo as a talented defender/fullback, recruited her and welcomed her for the 2018-19 OUA season. In her second season for the Gryphons, Madogo started 11 of 13 games and scored one goal, which was a game-winner.
But if you look a little deeper into Madogo’s athletic resume, you’d see her playing other sports. As a high school student at Franco-Ouest, she was on the girls’ volleyball, touch football and track and field teams.
During her second year at the University of Guelph, she mentioned to her soccer coach Shayne Campbell she participated in track at Franco-Ouest, but it was nothing serious. He suggested she should talk to Jason Kerr, who was head coach for the Guelph track and field team, which was a powerhouse on the indoor provincial and national scenes.
When Madogo said it was nothing serious, that meant she only trained with the school team during the short spring season and wasn’t a member of a community club. But when she was on the track, she was a serious sprinter.
During the 2017 Ottawa high school season, she won the girls’ senior bronze medal over 100 metres in 12.29 seconds at the OFSAA provincial high school championships, after winning that straightaway sprint at the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association West Conference, NCSSAA city and East Regional levels. She also was a top-four 200-metre runner until OFSAA. Madogo only raced the conference championship in 2018.
“When I tried out for the (high school) track team, I wanted to do something else not soccer related. My friends said to join track and one thing led to another,” Madogo said.
It certainly did, as she can now look at the 2022 U Sports indoor track and field championship results package and see she was a three-time Canadian university champion and part owner of one national relay record.
After the 2019-20 soccer season, Madogo approached Kerr about trying out for the team. That was November, 2019, and she was not only four months behind her peers in track training, but also entered the sprint world with little experience and no proper techniques.
Kerr, who already had three quality 60-metre female sprinters, was skeptical about Madogo’s planned journey. But after he provided her with the necessary technical building blocks on how to be a sprinter and Madogo dedicated herself to being fast out of the blocks and down the straightaway, the questionable experiment had a positive conclusion.
“I didn’t think she’d make our team,” Kerr told Rob Massey of GuelphToday.com in a recent interview. “I actually advised her to consider not trying out because I didn’t think it was a good option. So, it tells you how much I know about this, right?”
Despite her raw high school speed, making the transition to track in late 2019 from soccer, after almost a two-year break, was a difficult task for Madogo.
“It was probably the biggest challenge,” she added. “I went from being good at soccer to joining a sport that I didn’t know well. When I first joined, I was the least co-ordinated sprinter you could see. I wasn’t that good, but I was super motivated.”
Being a national power, the Guelph athletes practised hard every day and that inspired Madogo.
“It was the best group to be in. I was motivated to get better and to do better,” continued Madogo, who had plenty of support from her teammates. “I was four months behind everyone. They were training in the fall and I was playing soccer.
“The training was hard and tough at times. I questioned myself. Do I want to pursue this? It can be discouraging. But I stuck with it and Jason Kerr stuck with me.”
Madogo overcame her late entry into the track season through dedicated practice sessions, which allowed her to make the Gryphons’ team for the 2020 indoor season.
At the Ontario and Canadian university championships, she quickly emerged as a double silver medallist in the 60-metre dash. She was second across the board in her heat (7.51), semifinal (7.52) and final (7.41) to teammate Shyvonne Roxborough of Ottawa at the OUAs. Madogo ran even faster at the U Sports nationals – second in her preliminary heat at 7.40 and second in the final in 7.33. Roxborough continued to lead the pack.
“After three months of training, it was one of the most shocking and exciting things I have done. It was one of my biggest highlights. Being second in the country, I didn’t expect that. It was a big moment,” she explained.
Shortly after her indoor season, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the 2020-21 competitive season was cancelled. But the Gryphons stayed connected with their sport through various ways of training.
When track and field competitions resumed in 2022, Madogo was ready to excel and live in the moment.
At the OUA championships, Madogo was a quadruple champion, winning the 60 metres in 7.41, contributed to Guelph’s wins in the 4×200-metre and 4×400-metre relays in 1:36.86 and 3:44.68 respectively, and scored points towards the Gryphons capturing the women’s team title. She also was third in the 300 metres in 39.47.
The U Sports championships saw Madogo win the 60 metres in a personal-best 7.30, help set a national record in the 4×200-metre relay at 1:36.20, and celebrate a fourth consecutive women’s team title.
“(Winning three gold medals) was definitely a surreal moment,” she said. “I wanted the best races for myself and that happened.”
And she became a U Sports champion three times over in an amazing weekend surrounded by her teammates, coaches and family.
“I feel a lot goes into it. I wear the medals around my neck, but coaches like Jason Kerr, Angela Whyte, Dontae Richards-Kwok and Rob Winslow are people who have supported me from the beginning.
“I’m part of it, but my teammates are a huge part of a community that’s behind me. I run, but they do so much for me. That’s why I became a U Sports champion.”
Madogo’s next goal will be to run her way onto Athletics Canada’s 2022 world championship team in Eugene, Oregon, as a member of the Guelph-based Royal City Athletics Club.
The 100-metre qualifying time she has to meet or beat is 11.15 seconds. In three National Track and Field Tour meets this season, she won the Bob Vigars Classic in London in 11.29 and the Royal City Inferno Track and Field Festival in 11.38. She also was second at the Classique Montreal in 11.37.
Madogo is currently ranked No. 2 in Canada for the women’s 100 metres at 11.29 seconds. The Canadian Track and Field Championships will be held from June 22-26 in Langley, B.C.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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