Cole Wilson knew his life had changed the day his Achilles tendon was severed in Grade 6, but not the way he expected.
It was an unfortunate accident, as Wilson was running past a gym door that opened at the perfect time, and a metal edge clipped him above his right ankle and rendered him unable to walk. Physiotherapy lasted nearly three years, and Wilson became fascinated with human biomechanics.
It set him on a journey that resulted in a scholarship to Florida’s Keiser University – split between track and field, where he’ll compete in the decathlon, and academics, where he’ll study health and human performance.
Instead of living with regret and worrying about his ability to push off with his right leg, which is how Wilson initially dealt with the injury, he turned it into a positive.
“When I look at it now, it was kind of a blessing in disguise and helped me learn important lessons and got me an introduction into sport science as a whole,” the 17-year-old College Avenue secondary school senior said. “Being in that atmosphere and the different talks that go on within a physio clinic, I was interested in how muscles and tendons work.”
Wilson grew up in Paris before moving to near Burgessville in Grade 8. He’d always been athletically gifted and interested in improving, which included videos, podcasts and reading about ways to get stronger, more agile or better balance – anything that would take his performance to another level.
Basketball was his main passion, and he figured continued improvement on the court in his early years at CASS would lead to university hoops once he graduated. He competed in track and field at College Avenue, though it still took a back seat to basketball.
It wasn’t until Grade 11 while competing with the Woodstock Track and Field Club that Wilson started taking the sport seriously.
“I fell in love with track.”
High jump was his best event, and he pushed himself both on the club circuit and at high school, where he was named Athlete of the Year as a junior and senior.
“I didn’t realize (a split scholarship) was a thing until I talked to the coaches (at Keiser),” he said. “I was excited to see that all the work I put in academically was also being rewarded as well as athletically.
“When I’m competing in 10 different events, biomechanics are everything. The amount of time I spent studying to improve myself has become a huge interest of mine.”
Despite a lack of official results over the past 12 months, Wilson was able to enter some club meets in 2020 and catch the interest of collegiate coaches. Keiser called, and Wilson was won over by the “hands-on” academic setup and the chance to compete athletically in multiple events in a warm climate in West Palm Beach.
As a Seahawk, Wilson will be part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is mostly made up of smaller schools and is comparable to most NCAA Division 2 programs. He’ll continue challenging himself, whether it’s improving his strengths, such as high jump, or working on his weaknesses, like pole vault.
His goal as a freshman is to make nationals while also striving to meet the requirements needed to qualify for Athletics Canada’s U20 team.
“Hard work does pay off,” he said. “Think about what the other person is doing and push past them, and if you do more than them then ultimately you deserve to be more successful.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do.”