WINDSOR JUNCTION: If it wasn’t for Georges P. Vanier Junior High gym teacher Sean Hanlon, one highly-coveted Windsor Junction track and field athlete may not have found her way to the sport she now loves.

When Abbi Gaudry was in Grade 7, Mr. Hanlon had a demonstration with some of his students in gym class about track and field and the various sports involved. Up until that moment, Gaudry now in her senior year at Lockview High School, didn’t even know that track was a sport, let alone the events as part of it.

“Mr. Hanlon was the one who told me I should try track,” she recalled from their first talk about it years ago at GPV. “He was the one who introduced me to Doug, Bridget (Deveau), and everybody.

“If he never had introduced me to the sport, I wouldn’t be here doing it. It’s pretty cool. It’s like a full circle. Five years ago, I didn’t even know track was a sport that I could do.”

Gaudry knew her dad had done the sport in university, but she never put it together that she could do it in N.S.

“We did it in gym class one day and Mr. Hanlon saw how much I loved doing it and told me I should try it,” she said. “He got me out to Chebucto and introduced me to Bella Willett (from Waverley).

“Now I love it.”

A pentathlete she holds provincial records in the midget long jump; intermediate 100 metre hurdles; and indoor midget pentathlon. She is a competitor with Chebucto Athletics based out of Sackville.

In looking for a school to go to, she used the service known as Streamline. Through this, she was able to connect with various schools.

Gaudry spoke to many schools out west and in the U.S., but the ultimate deciding factor was the situation with COVID19. She grew up watching Dal and is familiar with some of the current athletes, knows the coaches, and many of the new recruits are athletes she competes against.

“It’ll be like family, so it’s comfortable, which is good,” she said. “I made the decision because of COVID, but also because Dalhousie in my view is a great place to continue in the sport I love and am passionate about.”

She will be studying kinesiology at Dalhousie.

Among the top three schools that were interested were: Dalhousie; University of Massachusetts (NCAA Division 1); Guleph University in Ontario.

It also doesn’t hurt where her parents work is close by—especially mom, who is close enough she can give Abbi a hug daily; and just a 20-minute drive from her families Capilano Estates home.

“I always thought I wanted to go away to university and had that set in my mind, but I don’t think I’m ready to leave,” said Gaudry. “I’m glad I made the decision to stay close by and go to Dalhousie.”

While she is going to Dal, Gaudry will be staying on campus and not at her home.

“It’s going to be the best of both worlds,” she said.

Gaudry has a connection to Dal. Her mom Sarah graduated from the University 20 years ago, so she’ll be following in her mom’s footsteps. What’s that like?

It’s kind of awesome, but I’m going to make my own path,” said the very chill Gaudry sitting in a chair by the dinner table. “I’m not going to be in the shadow of my mother.”

Dal track and field head coach said Gaudry is one of the best all-around track and field athletes to come out of Atlantic Canada in recent years.

“We believe she’s already prepared to compete at the national level in pentathlon,” said Lehman, “and she is a medal threat at the conference level in the hurdles, high jump, and long jump.”

Gaudry herself is keeping expectations middle of the ground.

She said the main goal will be to get used to the training; the team; then second year, the aim is to get to U Sports. She will be training with U Sport long jump champion Lorena Heubach.

“I’ll have lots of expertise to fall back on,” she said. “I’m up for the challenge. It’ll be exciting.”