Just a few years ago, Ethan Foster could not do a sit-up or a push-up.
That is a stark contrast to where the Langley teen finds himself these days.
It has been an eventful few weeks for the 15-year-old.
He won the gold medal in the junior boys pole vault competition at the B.C. high school track and field championships, clearing 3.70m to handily win the competition. His nearest competitor was 0.60m below that height. It also would have tied him for the bronze medal in the senior boys division.
The week before at the B.C. combined events championships, Foster scored 4,909 points in the senior boys decathlon, which would have given him the silver medal but he was competing under exhibition status.
Vancouver College’s Jasper Schiedel won gold and was tops in seven of the 10 events. Two of the disciplines he didn’t win — the pole vault and 1500m — saw Foster take first place.
And this past weekend in Ottawa, Foster finished fourth at the Panamerican Combined Events Cup in the decathlon with a Guatemalan athlete finishing first and a Peruvian athlete second.
Foster’s 5,352 points put him second among Canadian athletes, as he was less than 100 points behind New Brunswick’s Adam Farmer.
Teen struggled just a few years ago
So how does a teenager go from not being able to do a sit-up or push-up to becoming a rising decathlete, a sport he just took up a year ago?
“Something clicked (when he was 11) and he never played a video game after that, ever,” explained his dad, Scott, who also coaches his son with the B.C. Flyers Athletic Club.
Scott Foster himself attended Simon Fraser on a track and field scholarship, and still competing, now at the masters level, in the triple jump and long jump.
But it took some coaxing to get his son to train for the decathlon, which sees an athlete compete in 10 different events.
“He had all the attributes you needed (to be successful). He resisted, but I wasn’t pushy, more leading him in that direction,” Scott Foster said.
Ethan started in the pentathlon, which is five events, before working his way towards the decathlon.
What helps Ethan is the fact that while he may not be great in any one event — save for the pole vault — he is good in all the others.
Pole vault Foster’s best event
In Ottawa, he set a new personal best in the pole vault, clearing 3.90m, a new personal best. That tied him for first among the six athletes competing over the weekend.
At 15 years old, he was also competing in the youth division, which is for athletes 16 and 17 years old.
Foster was first in the 1500m (4:32.48), second in the long jump (5.98m) and third in the 400m (54.36). He was fourth in the discus (29.85m) and high jump (1.69m), and fifth in both the 100m (12.31) and 110m hurdles (17.96) and sixth in each of the shot put (1.69m) and javelin (26.76m).
Need short memory to succeed
Competing in so many events has taught Foster that he can’t dwell on anything for too long.
“If I do bad in one event, I can’t give up. You don’t know what can happen in decathlon. Anything can happen,” he said, adding that his weekend in Ottawa was also a learning experience.
“It gave me an idea of where I am at and what I need to work on.”
Scott Foster says his son is never content.
“He is constantly looking for advice and improvement so he can be better and better,” he said.
And the summer is shaping up to be a busy one for Foster, who enters Grade 11 at D.W. Poppy in September.
He has the B.C. Athletics championships next month (July 15 to 17) in Nanaimo and then the Canadian Legion youth track and field championships the following month. They will be held Aug. 7 to 9 in Sainte-Therese, Que.
Foster has qualified in both the pole vault and decathlon, but will have to make a choice as to which one he will focus on for the competition.
Langley’s Georgia Ellenwood was also competing over the weekend in Ottawa at the Canadian combined events championships.
The 20-year-old finished second in Canada in the senior women’s division for the heptathlon, scoring 5,814 points. That score was just behind Jessica Zelinski’s 5,855 points.
Ellenwood — who attended Langley Secondary and is one of the most decorated high school track and field athletes of all-time in B.C. — is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin and holds the school record in the heptathlon with 5,935 points.
She is also a member of the Langley Mustangs Track and Field Club and has represented Canada in the past.