CKSS middle-distance runner Emma Pegg has accepted a scholarship to the University of Maryland.
Last fall, the Northern Vikings wore blue and gold hair ribbons as they chased Emma Pegg of the CKSS Golden Hawks during the LKSSAA cross-country championship.
They sported Pegg’s school colours to show their support as her mother, Kristen, neared the end of her battle with cancer.
“When your biggest competition is also one of your biggest supporters, it just speaks to your character not only as an athlete but as a person, too,” Chatham-Kent Secondary School track and field coach Derek Quigley said. “She’s very well-respected and well-liked by her competitors and coaches and really everyone in this running community.”
Saying Pegg’s character matches her athletic feats is saying a lot. She’s one of the top teenage middle-distance runners in Canada.
The 17-year-old from Morpeth signed her national letter of intent Wednesday with the University of Maryland.
COVID-19 restrictions meant her family couldn’t go to CKSS for a signing ceremony. So, Pegg held it at her grandparents’ home in Ridgetown.
Her father, John, grandparents Reade and Sherrie Spence, and grandmother Anne Goslin were among the many relatives there.
“They’re the ones who helped me get to where I am today,” the Grade 12 student said. “I definitely have them to thank for everything.
“It was really nice to have everyone here. I love all of their love and support.”
Pegg won six OFSAA track and field medals – four gold, one silver and one bronze – in Grades 9 and 10. Her Grade 11 season last spring was cancelled because of the pandemic.
She was ranked No. 1 in Canada in 2019 in the under-18 girls’ 800 metres with a time of 2:08.11. And she won a silver medal for Team Canada in the 800 at the 2019 North American, Central American and Caribbean championships.
Pegg was pursued by several colleges before she chose Maryland. She plans to study kinesiology.
“My first call with the coach, it was just super easy to connect with her,” she said about associate head coach Danielle Siebert, “and I got a gut feeling that was different from any other school. They have an amazing academic program, an amazing athletic program and, after talking to some of the other girls on the team, I just knew I’d fit in really well there.”
Pegg will also run for the cross-country team, but track will be her focus.
Her speed, athleticism and conditioning set her apart from most runners, Quigley said. But mental toughness may be her biggest asset.
Once the starter’s pistol goes, there’s no sign of the friendly teen beloved by teammates and rivals alike.
“All that stuff goes out the window when she’s got to race and compete,” Quigley said. “It’s just really a strong competitive nature and a really strong mentality. It’s not only what she’s capable of, but when she has to do it in a race, she’ll find another gear. She’ll dig down deep.”
She’ll run through pain, he said. She was born with some of that toughness. The rest came from training with her 4×400 relay teammates: Chloe Pugh, Camille Blain and Payton Sabourin. Blain and Sabourin are now in the NCAA as well.
“I just always have the motivation to do my best,” said Pegg, a member of the Windsor Legion Track and Field Club. “I know that if I don’t put everything out on the track, I’m going to be disappointed with myself, so I just always give it my all.
“I think I’m just very competitive, so when I get out there I just want to do my best.”
She also has a great finishing kick. If she isn’t in the lead nearing the finish line, she will be soon.
“Her kick at the end is elite,” Quigley said.
Pegg always finds a way to chase down someone in front of her.
“Some people will shut down when they see that situation. Emma doesn’t really have a quit in her,” Quigley said.
“Sometimes I wish she didn’t have to chase people down all the time. … When she learns a little more strategy and when she goes off to the States, just chasing people down isn’t going to happen all the time. I really think we’re going to see her work the first half of her 800 metres a little bit more and even her 1,500. I think it’s going to pay off quite well for her.”