Bal­anc­ing ath­let­ics and aca­demics

Two top King’s-Edge­hill stu­dents jug­gle de­mand­ing sched­ules while hav­ing fun


Grade 9 stu­dents Aria MacDon­ald and Righo Etou aren’t your av­er­age ath­letes — or aca­demics.

In late May, dur­ing the King’sEdge­hill School’s an­nual ath­let­ics banquet, the two stu­dents were each rec­og­nized for their ex­cel­lence in ath­let­ics, aca­demics and abil­i­ties to suc­cess­fully balance the two. Each re­ceived the ath­lete of the year award and the scholar ath­lete of the year award.

The KES ju­nior school’s ath­letic di­rec­tor, Kevin Lakes, spoke highly of the two stu­dents in an in­ter­view.

“They’re re­ally ex­cep­tional kids,” says Lakes. “Each of them, both bring ath­leti­cism, but also they bring an aca­demic fo­cus, school is very im­por­tant to them.

A love for run­ning

MacDon­ald, a res­i­dent of Port Wil­liams, is no stranger to be­ing rec­og­nized for her hard work, as this is the sec­ond year in a row that she’s won the ju­nior fe­male ath­lete of the year award.

This year, MacDon­ald also won three awards for the sports she took part in this past year — biathlon, cross-coun­try and track and field. MacDon­ald also won awards for cross-coun­try and biathlon the year be­fore as well.

MacDon­ald says she’s very grate­ful to have re­ceived these awards.

While MacDon­ald says it’s hard for her to pick just one favourite sport that she cur­rently plays, at this point in her life, she con­sid­ers run­ning to be her pas­sion.

“I tend to switch be­tween sports a lot,” says MacDon­ald. “But right now, run­ning is my pas­sion…I Just re­ally love it.”

MacDon­ald adds that ini­tially, in Grade 7, she didn’t run and had no real in­ter­est in be­gin­ning the sport, but her par­ents, who she says are avid run­ners, con­vinced her to give it a shot.

“In Grade 7 I didn’t re­ally run at all,” says MacDon­ald. “But my par­ents did, and, kind of, they tried to drag me to run, but I wasn’t that good, I didn’t re­ally like it.”

When the time came for track and field to be­gin, MacDon­ald was de­ter­mined to give run­ning an­other chance and chose to do sprint­ing – but soon re­al­ized it wasn’t for her.

She even­tu­ally found her love for long dis­tance run­ning when she be­gan jog­ging on the trails be­hind the school while the other ath­letes went away to re­gion­als and provin­cials.

“I just kind of fell in love with it,” says MacDon­ald. “Then I trained Aria MacDon­ald and Righo Etou dis­play their awards fol­low­ing the 2018 King’s-Edge­hill School’s ath­let­ics award banquet. Pic­tured with them is the Di­rec­tor of Ath­let­ics Kim Walsh.

a lot over the sum­mer and got a fairly good base and trained re­ally hard with the other ath­letes when the sea­son came, and that’s when I got re­ally into it.”

MacDon­ald com­petes in the fivek­ilo­me­tre in cross-coun­try, and the 3,000-, 1,500- and 800-me­tre events in track and field.

Po­ten­tial for Canada Games

While pas­sion­ate about run­ning, MacDon­ald says that biathlon is a huge part of her life — a sport she’s lucky enough to share an in­ter­est in with her fa­ther.

“I’d say my dad is like my men­tor,” says MacDon­ald. “We started do­ing biathlon around the same time and both kind of de­vel­oped as ath­letes and our knowl­edge at the same time. We give each other ad­vice and help each other out.”

This past sea­son, MacDon­ald had the op­por­tu­nity to travel to the Cana­dian Biathlon Cham­pi­onships in Charlo, New Brunswick — where she com­peted at the se­nior girls’ level.

“It was a great op­por­tu­nity,” says MacDon­ald.

MacDon­ald en­joys biathlon be­cause she con­sid­ers it to be “very much a men­tal game as much as a phys­i­cal (one).”

Due to poor snow con­di­tions in Nova Sco­tia this past win­ter, MacDon­ald and her team had to do more dry land train­ing than usual and travel out of prov­ince for snow train­ing.

MacDon­ald also trains with Biathlon Nova Sco­tia. Even af­ter the

sea­son ended, she con­tin­ued to train and she’s al­ready eye­ing next sea­son — and also the pos­si­bil­ity of com­pet­ing at the Canada Games.

“It’s def­i­nitely on the ta­ble,” says MacDon­ald. “The team’s talked about it a lot, but I’m still de­cid­ing, be­cause it’s such a huge com­mit­ment.”

Keep­ing a balance

When it comes to keep­ing the balance be­tween her ath­let­ics and aca­demics, the hon­ours stu­dent says her par­ents are a big in­flu­ence on her suc­cess.

“A lot of it comes from my par­ents,” says MacDon­ald. “They are re­ally into an ac­tive, sporty life­style, but also stress the im­por­tance of a good ed­u­ca­tion and putting the ef­fort in.”

MacDon­ald adds that play­ing sports helps a lot with be­ing able to prop­erly balance her­self with school.

“It takes up a lot of my time, but it helps me in other as­pects of my life, be­cause they’re so many skills you learn from sports and things you can take into other as­pects of your life,” she said.

Aside from aca­demics and ath­let­ics, MacDon­ald has an in­ter­est

in the­atre and played Cin­derella in the ju­nior school’s pro­duc­tion of Rodgers and Ham­mer­stein’s Cin­derella.

Ju­nior male ath­lete

Etou is also no stranger to hav­ing his hard work rec­og­nized, as last year he re­ceived the NSSAF Ju­nior Male Good Sport Award.

The Con­golese in­ter­na­tional stu­dent from France has come a long way since last year, bring­ing home awards for soc­cer and bas­ket­ball on top of the two oth­ers he won in May. Etou also played rugby this past year.

Etou says that, while he wasn’t ex­pect­ing to win the awards this year, he’s happy to see his hard work rec­og­nized.

“It felt good; it was re­ally nice for me to get both awards,” says Etou. “I did not ex­pect to get both of them, but it was still a re­ally nice thing, and I knew that I worked hard to get them.”

While the soc­cer and bas­ket­ball awards he earned this year were for play­ing on ju­nior teams, Etou had the op­por­tu­nity to play with the boys’ se­nior bas­ket­ball and rugby teams as well.

How­ever, ath­let­ics alone aren’t the only area in which Etou is ahead of the rest, it’s aca­demics as well. The 14-year-old has skipped a grade and is a year younger than his peers.

As he is taller than most of the play­ers on the ju­nior team, Etou says play­ing bas­ket­ball for the ju­nior school was less com­pet­i­tive and he’s happy he got the op­por­tu­nity to have a month to play with the se­niors, who are older and have more ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It made me bet­ter just play­ing with them,” says the for­ward. “In the ju­nior school, it was eas­ier to shoot over their heads, or to drive in, but with the se­nior school, I had to learn to do things that I didn’t have to do be­fore, and it made my game a lot bet­ter.”

While he’s played rugby for years, get­ting to play the whole sea­son with the se­nior team was an amaz­ing learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I got to do things that were just new to me,” says Etou, who plays back in rugby. “Even though it was a short sea­son, it was very chal­leng­ing, and it was a lot of fun.”

Keep­ing the balance

When it comes to keep­ing a steady balance be­tween his ath­let­ics and aca­demics, Etou says his big­gest as­set is time man­age­ment.

“We have prep time ev­ery day from 7 to 10, I use it to study and do my school work,” says Etou.

Etou adds that grades are what he con­sid­ers to be most im­por­tant to him over­all, and that his par­ents are a big in­flu­ence on him to do well and get good grades.

“Get­ting good grades is very im­por­tant to me,” says Etou. “Grades are a big deal to my par­ents as well, they push me to get good grades ev­ery year, they’re a big part of who I am.”

Etou also adds that re­ceiv­ing the scholar ath­lete of the year award meant that all the hard work he’d put in had paid off, and that he knew how to prop­erly balance his aca­demics and ath­let­ics.

While sports are a big part of his life in school, he doesn’t plan to play sports pro­fes­sion­ally, and in­stead he wants to go into busi­ness like his fa­ther, who he con­sid­ers to be his role model.

Aside from ath­let­ics and aca­demics, Etou also plays the piano.


Righo Etou played on both the ju­nior and se­nior bas­ket­ball teams at King’s-Edge­hill School.



Aria MacDon­ald com­peted at the Cana­dian Biathlon Cham­pi­onships 2018 in Charlo, New Brunswick.

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