PEI

Meet P.E.I.'s youngest 2019 Canada Winter Games athletes

Meet Keegan Crawford and Spencer Freeze, the Island's youngest athletes competing in this year's Canada Winter Games.

Keegan Crawford and Spencer Freeze will be vying for titles in the Canada Winter Games archery competition

'They're the two youngest members of Team P.E.I. this year for Canada Games so that's pretty exciting,' says coach Duncan Crawford. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Meet Keegan Crawford and Spencer Freeze, the Island's youngest athletes competing in this year's Canada Winter Games, according to Team P.E.I. officials.

At 11 years old, the two young archers already have a number of regional and national titles under their belts, but it will be their first time competing in the indoor archery events at the Canada Games.

The two young archers have been training for years in preparation for this competition and already have a number of championship titles under their belts. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

According to officials with the 2019 Canada Winter Games, Keegan and Spencer will also be some of the youngest athletes competing in Red Deer, Alta., this year, with the youngest being 10 years old.

"These guys have been practising for years now believe it or not," said their coach Duncan Crawford, who is also Keegan's father.

"They're the two youngest members of Team P.E.I. this year for Canada Games so that's pretty exciting," Crawford said.

'I remember the excitement and the energy around Games and all the things that go with it. So I have an immense amount of pride for all of my athletes,' says head coach Duncan Crawford. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Keegan picked up his first bow at the age of five and said he's been shooting ever since.

"I'm just really, mostly excited and this would be my biggest competition so I'm really looking forward to it," Keegan said.

Spencer took up archery just two years ago and said it only took picking up the bow once to know archery was something he wanted to pursue further.

Development and experience

The two young athletes are both on year-round training schedules designed specifically for their individual development, said Crawford. They see sports psychologists, fitness specialists and can sometimes train up to six days a week, all the while still playing other sports like soccer and hockey, he added.

"It's a pretty in-depth program," Crawford said.

Keegan and Spencer will be competing in the indoor archery events beginning next week, shooting targets at a range of 18 metres. Crawford said they will shoot two qualification rounds and will be ranked based on how they score. Then they go into head-to-head elimination matches, competing against athletes nearly twice their age, he said.

Spencer Freeze says the most important thing to remember when trying to make a perfect shot is to stay focused on the target and think positively. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"They'll be shooting up against athletes that are 19," Crawford said. "This Games will be really about development and experience for them. They'll still be age-eligible for two more Canada Games so this is an incredible experience for them, they're going to understand the pressures involved.

"Four years time when it's back here in P.E.I., 2023, they'll be grizzled veterans by then," he added.

A mental game

For Spencer, the most challenging part of the sport is the mental game.

"You've got to basically not get upset over every shot, if you make a bad one and you want to keep positive every time," he said. 

Spencer said he and Keegan are good friends and go to the same school and having him as a training partner is a big help when it comes to mastering technique.

According to officials with the 2019 Canada Winter Games, Keegan and Spencer will also be some of the youngest athletes competing in Red Deer, Alta., this year. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"It feels like if you're down, you've got somebody to bring you up."

When it comes to making the perfect shot, both athletes say it's important to stay focused on the target.

"I take a deep breath and pull back," Keegan said. "Then whenever I'm ready I'll just pull the trigger back slowly and let it fly."

Following in a father's footsteps

Crawford is no stranger to the Canada Games, himself. He competed in two Canada Games as a young athlete in archery and this will be his second time returning as a coach.

"I remember the excitement and the energy around Games and all the things that go with it. So I have an immense amount of pride for all of my athletes," Crawford said.

'Whenever I'm ready I'll just pull the trigger back slowly and let it fly," says Keegan. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Both Keegan and Spencer say they're looking forward to the competition, but are also excited to meet other athletes and cheer on Team P.E.I.

"I can't say enough it's pretty amazing to see it come full circle next generation," Crawford added.

Bright future ahead

Keegan is a compound archer, due to the type of bow he shoots with, which means he could qualify for world youth archery championships in the future. In the meantime, he said he'll be focusing on national championships across North America.

"Since I'm so young, I'll probably try and keep training more and more and increase and get better so I can go on into big events like worlds," Keegan said.

'This Games will be really about development and experience for them. They'll still be age-eligible for two more Canada Games so this is an incredible experience for them, they're going to understand the pressures involved,' says Crawford. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Spencer uses a recurve bow, which means he qualifies for a number of the same events but could also be on track to eventually become an Olympic competitor.

"He'll be on the Olympic pathway so there could be an Olympic Games in his future if he keeps training the way he does," Crawford said.

Spencer and Keegan will be leaving the Island for Red Deer on Saturday and will be competing in the archery competitions that run from Feb. 26 to Mar. 1.

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