Emma Guertin was not functioning optimally during a precalculus 12 class at NorKam senior secondary, the honours student down on herself and mired in an unusual mathematic funk.
With permission from teacher Cody Hilton, Guertin took leave from the classroom to answer a phone call that added excitement and subtracted frustration, bringing balance to her mental equation.
“I come back in and my teacher is like, ’OK, so what was that about?’” Guertin told KTW. “I was like, ’Oh, I just won this award.”
Guertin, who turns 18 on July 3, is one of 10 recipients of the 2019 Premier’s Awards for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport.
The Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council, in conjunction with the province, uses the awards to honour excellence in sport, commitment to education, positive work in communities and leadership on and off the field.
“It means a lot to me,” Guertin said. “My mom had to work really hard to find out we were actually Métis. My grandpa didn’t know his parents very well. He was put in residential school and he just doesn’t know a lot about his heritage. I didn’t know for sure until about two years ago. My mom finally got all the information. It's just something I find special.”
From 36 regional recipients selected last fall, 10 athletes were chosen to receive the Premier’s Award. Guertin also won the regional award for 2018, but was not among recipients of the Premier’s Award that year.
“Last year, I was very close,” Guertin said. “I was like, OK, I guess I’ll just try again next year. I worked so hard over the summer. But you’re up against so many other amazing athletes. You really don’t know who they’re going to pick. It’s also about school. A lot of these kids have 4.0 GPAs.”
Guertin represented B.C. last year at the Canadian Championships in Trampoline Gymnastics in Oshawa and Canoe Kayak Canada Sprint National Championships in Regina.
She won silver in 17-plus Level 5 double-mini at trampoline nationals. The Kamloops Gymnastics and Trampoline Centre athlete was a fixture atop the podium in double-mini at provincial meets in 2019.
Guertin and Abigail Donaldson, both of the Kamloops Canoe and Kayak Club, helped B.C. to a fifth-place finish in the junior women’s K4 500m final at canoe and kayak nationals in the Queen City.
The KCKC twosome also placed seventh in the under-18 women’s K4 500m final.
Guertin won three gold medals in one-person kayak racing at the B.C. Aboriginal Provincial Canoe/Kayak Championships last September in Agassiz, finishing first in the under-18 200m, 1,000m and 3,000m. She was to paddle for B.C. at the 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in July in Halifax, but that event has been postponed until next year due to the pandemic.
“It was pretty disappointing,” said Guertin, who has been on the provincial gymnastics squad since she was 13. “Being on Team B.C. is a huge honour. NAIG is large-scale, like the Olympics. And it is an opportunity to meet more people who have a similar heritage as me and have the same passion.”
Guertin plans to compete for B.C. at NAIG 2021, which will likely mark her final competitive event in both gymnastics and paddling.
She is turning her focus to pursuing education at Thompson Rivers University, where she will begin studying this fall.
The Premier’s Awards were to be handed out in Kamloops in March during Gathering Our Voices Indigenous Youth Leadership Training, but the pandemic pre-empted those plans.
“It means a lot to me to be recognized for hard work,” said Guertin, a KGTC coach and McDonald’s employee. “I feel like it has finally all paid off. For all the time and effort I’ve put in, it means a lot, and just to be recognized with something pretty big is pretty special to me.”