Luke Deyaeger, 16, bounds into the triple-jump sand, placing fourth in the continent’s 19U division at the North American Indigenous Games. (Photo submitted)

Luke Deyaeger, 16, bounds into the triple-jump sand, placing fourth in the continent’s 19U division at the North American Indigenous Games. (Photo submitted)

Quesnel athlete tracks down another new sport

Track and field and NAIG came naturally to Deyaeger

Luke Deyaeger is a born leader, on the pitch, on the court, and on the field…the track and field.

The Correlieu Secondary School athlete was already a foundational player in soccer and basketball, after starting out his competitive sports life as a child with the Lightning Creek Ski Club in Quesnel, so he is perhaps the only one surprised by how well he transitioned into running and jumping success. His Coyotes coaches – primarily Becky Whitehouse and Janet Barker – certainly weren’t displeased to see the Grade 11 student surge ahead in several of the finesse events in track and field, eventually winning zones in the 110-metre hurdles.

Then came the tryouts for the North American Indigenous Games. He made Team BC for track and field and was dispatched to Halifax to compete in the triple jump, 100-metre sprint and 200-metre sprint.

“This was my first year competing in track and field,” Deyaeger said. “The idea was to use it as conditioning during the off-season for soccer and basketball, to keep me in good shape and work the muscles I need to compete in those sports at a high level. When I joined track and field this year, I had no expectations about winning anything…I am out of words about this.”

When he arrived in the territory of the Mi’kmaw people, he was given more surprising news. The team’s coaches had selected him and three others to represent the province in the 4-by-100 and 4-by-400 metre relay races.

“The 4×100 was definitely more challenging, because you only have a small distance to get your handoff right, but it was definitely a lot of fun,” Deyaeger said. “The 4×400-metre relay, it was a lot easier. We felt less pressure to perform. We knew that we stood a better chance in that one, so we had a lot of motivation to really push ourselves.”

The four Team BC runners did indeed perform well in the latter race, placing fourth in the 4×400-metre relay. He also placed fourth individually in the triple jump – fourth best on all of Turtle Island (North America), as a 16-year-old competing with athletes up to 19 years old.

This does not represent a change in sports focus, for him, only a broadening of it.

“I’m still going to focus a lot on basketball and soccer, but now that I’ve seen that I can perform at a high level in this sport, I’m definitely going to train a lot harder for it, because I’m still eligible for Canada Games coming up in 2025, so if I put in the time and effort, train with PG Track & Field (in Prince George) like I did before heading to NAIG, then I think I could possibly make it, and have an opportunity to perform at a high level.”

The extra beauty to this plan is, his original intent to use track and field as conditioning for his team sports still applies.

“I’m not giving up anything by pursuing this. There isn’t any overlap on the seasons. That’s the best part of it,” he said.

He is going into Grade 12 focused on setting himself up for a career in physiotherapy. He does not anticipate entering the political arena, although he is a vocal leader on his teams, an off-field leader as well, and comes from a long line of chiefs. His great-grandfather was chief of the T’Sou-ke Nation (one of the Coast Salish family of cultures), the southernmost territory on Vancouver Island. Jack Planes was elected, but was the son of Ida Lazzar (Deyaeger’s great-great-grandmother) who was one of the Nation’s hereditary chiefs. Since Jack, two of Deyaeger’s great-uncles have held the chief’s post, including currently. Others in the family have other roles in T’Sou-ke governance.

Deyaeger said he has plenty to occupy his passions and attention just trying to excel as an athlete and student. He also knows leadership takes many forms, no matter where his life takes him. It has already taken his Salish Sea roots to the Atlantic coast.

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North American Indigenous GamesQuesnelTrack and field