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By Martin Cleary
It’s time to solve a challenging sports equation.
What do you get when you add a football quarterback to a strong-hitting volleyball player and toss in some advice from a mother?
Well, of course, the answer has to be a javelin thrower. Check the answer at the back of the book.
Madison Mclean will tell you that’s absolutely correct because that’s the path she has taken to become one of the province’s best up-and-coming javelin throwers and a member of Team Ontario for the Canada Summer Games, which are Aug. 6-21 in Ontario’s Niagara Region.
In her elementary school days, Mclean played seven years in the National Capital Amateur Football Association with the Myers Riders. In her third year of tyke, she tried out as the team’s quarterback and won the assignment. She continued to develop her strong, right throwing arm as the Riders’ quarterback for two years in mosquito and two years in peewee. She stepped away from the game at age 14.
Mclean would often throw around a football with her older, football-playing brothers Kyle and Donovan. They were impressed by how well she could toss a ball and encouraged her to play tackle football and quarterback.
While attending Frank Ryan Catholic Intermediate School for Grades 7 and 8 and St. Pius X High School for four years, she played volleyball, which also allowed her to strengthen her arm.
When Mclean tried out for the St. Pius track and field team in Grade 9, she went in with an elementary school background as a high jumper. But her mother, who was a high school 800- and 1,500-metre runner in Cornwall (Catherine Mayer), made a suggestion.
“When I was eight years old, I played tackle football. I was quarterback and I could throw the ball. My mom used to run and she suggested I try throwing javelin,” Mclean said. “She said it’s fun and I could be good at it.”
Before that spring track and field season, she attended a javelin throwing clinic at Immaculata High School, which was organized by Ottawa’s Bill Heikkila, an expert coach for more than 50 years and a 1968 Summer Olympian.
“He invited me to train with him (at the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club). That helped as I picked up the technique and learned how to throw,” said Mclean, who will enter her fourth year at the University of Windsor studying human kinetics in September.
During the past seven years, Mclean has focused her athletics career on javelin and shot put (indoors). At Ontario’s recent Canada Summer Games trials meet, she threw a personal-best 47.72 metres, which has ranked her fourth in Canada in the women’s U23 class.
That distance allowed her to win the provincial team trials and earn her an automatic berth on Team Ontario for her first Canada Summer Games. It was the second time this season Mclean had exceeded her personal best. In her opening meet in May, she threw the javelin 45.86 metres at the John Loaring Classic in Windsor.
“My first throw (at the trials) was 37.22 metres and that wasn’t good. My last three steps weren’t great and it (javelin) fell out of my hand,” Mclean explained. “I forgot that throw and then threw 44.38 (second round).”
In her fourth of six rounds, she launched her best-ever throw, which covered 47.72 metres.
After winning the javelin competition, Team Ontario event coach Ron Cuffy congratulated her and had her register for the team.
“That was exciting,” Mclean said with a laugh. “I was really happy I threw a PB, when it really mattered.”
As for the Canada Summer Games, Mclean has a straightforward approach.
“My first goal is to make it out of the qualifying round,” she said. “In the final round, I’d like to make the top eight. My biggest goal is to throw 50 metres. It has been my goal for awhile. I’m close to it. I also think I’m in a good position to (win a) medal.”
Mclean was inspired after watching last week’s world track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon, and seeing American Kara Winger, who has had two major knee injuries in the past, win the silver medal with a toss of 64.05 metres.
“It shows no matter the setback, you can get back and compete,” Mclean said.
She fully understands that an athlete can rebound from injuries.
During her Grade 12 year at St. Pius, Mclean competed, but elbow and shoulder injuries prevented her from throwing at her best.
At the OFSAA provincial high school championships, she won the girls’ senior title in 2018 at 41.16 metres and the junior championship in 2017 at 39.34. In her first OFSAA, she was second in the midget class at 34.11 in 2016.
But in her final year (2019), Mclean finished a disappointing ninth and her best throw of 36.62 metres didn’t qualify her for the top eight and three additional throws.
The COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with her 2020 and 2021 seasons, but she was able to enter in a few competitions. Two summers ago, Mclean also fell off her bicycle, which resulted in facial injuries, and kept her out of the sport for two months.
After three challenging years, Mclean had a great indoor season in 2022 with the University of Windsor, which kick-started an outdoor season of personal-bests and achievements.
“My training (for shot put) helped me get stronger and improved by explosiveness,” said Mclean, who also added to her development by improving her run-up speed in the javelin.
Double-digit local representation in athletics
With many fellow Ottawa athletes set to compete in track-and-field, Mclean will see many familiar faces at Brock University’s Canada Games Park. The local contingent includes:
• David Adeleye, 19, sprint hurdles, Ottawa Lions, University of Toronto Varsity Blues (athletics and football)
• Eliezer Adjibi, 21, sprints, CANI Athletics, University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• Brett Babcock, 28, wheelchair racing sprints, National Capital Track & Field Club
• Thomas Becker, 19, high jump, CANI Athletics, University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• David Moulongou, 19, distance hurdles & 400 m, Ottawa Lions, University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• Tom Nedow, 24, throws, Ottawa Lions, Southeastern Louisiana University Lions
• Luca Nicoletti, 18, sprint hurdles, Ottawa Lions, ÉSC Paul-Desmarais Patriotes (will attend McGill University this fall)
• Doyin Ogunremi, 19, sprints, Ottawa Lions, University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
• Jonathan Rioux, 22, middle distance, Ottawa Lions, Windsor Lancers
• Leo Wallner, 18, decathlon, Ottawa Lions, St. Francis-Xavier CHS Coyotes
The Canada Games athletics competition runs from Aug. 16-20. Consult the full schedule here.
In the two weeks leading up to the start of the Canada Summer Games, OttawaSportsPages.ca will be profiling participating local athletes. During the Aug. 6-21 Games, we’ll bring you daily reporting live from Niagara Region. Sign up to receive our free Ottawa at the Canada Summer Games Daily Newsletter to follow along!
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Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 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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