Despite not taking part in a competitive track meet for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Airdrie local and University of Calgary Dinos student-athlete Sienna MacDonald is currently the number-one ranked U20 women’s heptathlete in the country, following a modified outdoor track and field season this spring and summer, according to Athletics Canada's ranking system.
MacDonald, 19, is also ranked fifth among all ages of Canada's female heptathletes.
“That was pretty amazing. Just looking at it, it’s kind of unbelievable to me. I didn’t think it would happen,” she said.
The multi-event track athlete graduated from George McDougall High School in 2020, and is heading into her second year of studies at the U of C.
During the last meet of the 2021 outdoor track season Aug. 22 and 23, MacDonald achieved a personal best of 5,048 points in the heptathlon – a multi-disciplinary event that has athletes competing in the 100-metre hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-metre sprint, long jump, javelin, and 800-metre.
“It was kind of exciting. It had been a while – the nerves kind of get to you, you forget how competing is,” she said of her return to the meet circuit. “I think getting back into the full swing of things, it’ll be a little less nerve-wracking.”
MacDonald added heptathletes are unique in that they compete in multiple events over the course of a day, at a rather rapid pace.
“I was very nervous for the meet, because it was my first heptathlon in – at least – over a year,” she said.
Formerly a basketball player and gymnast, MacDonald was introduced to competitive track and field when attending George McDougall. In her Grade 11 year, she joined the Calgary Warriors track club. At the Alberta Schools Athletic Association's high school provincial track and field championships in the spring of 2019, she set an ASAA record in the pentathlon, and also picked up gold in the intermediate (Grade 11) women's 80-metre hurdles.
Since then, she has earned medals at various national and international competitions, including the 2019 National Youth Track and Field Championships and the 2020 Simplot Games indoor track-and-field meet in Idaho. After a successful youth career, she committed to the Dinos in the spring of 2020.
The athlete said pushing through the last 18 months of the pandemic with on-and-off practices, training sessions, and no formal meets to compete in was especially difficult, and put a bit of a damper on her determination.
“When you have meets coming pretty often – like in past years – then it’s a motivation because you’re like ‘Oh, I have to get ready and train so I can compete really well at this upcoming meet,’” she said.
“But with meets not really happening, there’s nothing you can really build towards.”
Nonetheless, MacDonald said she kept up with the training program designed by her coach, Les Gramantik, and pushed herself to do at-home workouts.
She even made a few trips to the Ed Eggerer Athletic Park track in Airdrie to practice.
“It’s so much of a mental game,” she said. “You want to try and keep healthy and you don’t want to injure yourself over this long season of not knowing when your next meet is going to be.”
With summer coming to an end, MacDonald said she is taking some time off before she begins training for the indoor season at the end of September. Heptathlon is not offered during the indoor season, which means she will be competing in the events individually this winter to prepare for the outdoor iteration next year. She’s also considering competing in pentathlon.
MacDonald added that she is excited and nervous for the upcoming season, as it will be the first time she is truly competing at the university level. She said it’s good to have other athletes push and motivate her, but in the end, only she can control how she performs.
“When I train and I go to compete, I just focus on my own competition,” she said. “So, I’m not focused on how well other people are doing, I’m focused on what I’m personally doing.”