This is part of a series about Comox Valley student athletes who are moving onto the next level in their sport.
Comox Valley track star Lizzie Gummer is home for the summer after completing her freshman year at Harvard University. A provincial champion in the 400-metre hurdles, she earned an academic/athletic scholarship to the Ivy League school in Cambridge, Mass.
Living away from home, studying and training indoors six days a week was a challenge for the 18-year-old, who graduated last year from Highland Secondary.
“I think I under-estimated the distance aspect of it,” she said. “But I’m really glad that I went somewhere that was so diverse and allowed me to experience so many new things that I didn’t have in Comox.”
In her Grade 11 year, Gummer won the 400m hurdles at the B.C. High School Track and Field Championships. She chose not to defend her title in 2017, opting instead to attend her grad ceremony. But she won a bronze medal that year in the 100m hurdles. She made Team Canada and had planned to continue the track season last summer, but she couldn’t compete because of a foot infection.
“It cost the majority of my season,” said Gummer said.
Her best time in the 400m hurdles is 59.74, which she hasn’t been able to break since the infection. She figures 56 seconds would be a competitive collegiate time in her event.
“I was expecting to go in and set a bunch of personal bests (at Harvard), and I didn’t even come close. That was really hard. The (indoor) training was extremely different from what I had done at home. I had a good relationship with my coach, John May, in town. So it was interesting switching into a new coaching style, and with somebody I didn’t know yet.”
She says the Harvard women’s sprints/jumps/hurdles coach, Kebba Tolbert, is a knowledgeable, “well-renowned coach,” especially in the 400m hurdles.
On the Harvard website, Tolbert commends Gummer’s work ethic: “We see potential for a lot of development in her time at Harvard. We expect that she will help immediately, and will continue our legacy of excellence in the long hurdles and 4x400m relay.”
Gummer has trained alongside Harvard track star Gabby Thomas, who this year broke the NCAA indoor 200-metre record.
“She’s an amazing athlete. She’s really cool to train with, and just to see how she handles the mental and the physical side of track.”
Lizzie isn’t the only member of the Gummer family taking part in varsity sports. Her older sister, Chloe, 19, is a striker on the women’s soccer team at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo. Coach Kevin Lindo has said that Chloe has “great potential.” A mainstay in the attacking lineup, she scored four goals in her rookie season with the Mariners.