Kierstyn Hawke is an Ontario Tech University student who shines on the water, on a bike – and in the classroom.
Hawke is on the women’s rowing varsity team at Ontario Tech, does competitive mountain biking in the summer – all while maintaining her scholarship with a 90 per cent average.
The 21-year-old was born in Oshawa and is in her third year of studying health sciences.
Hawke focused on her academics in her first year at Ontario Tech before getting into athletics.
“I actually started rowing in my second year and it was kind of just a spur of the moment. I saw some posters around the school and my friend was like ‘let’s try it’,” says Hawke.
Hawke says she was able to learn how to row thanks to Ontario Tech’s excellent novice program because she previously had no rowing experience.
Athletes in the novice program participate in a tryout. They have to partake in a two-kilometre run and an in-water skills assessment. These tryouts usually take place in late August or early September.
Hawke started mountain biking four years ago when she was a student at Oshawa’s O’Neill Collegiate, deciding to try out a new sport after 15 years of gymnastics.
“My mom used to be a pro (cycling) racer and that’s what spurred that idea, but basically I quit. Gymnastics wasn’t really doing anything and one day I said I was going to try the (mountain bike) racing series and that’s when I fell in love,” says Hawke.
Even though Hawke’s mom inspired her to mountain bike, surprisingly she wasn’t the one who taught her.
“Nobody really taught me. I just kind of got on a bike and it was almost a little bit of a natural talent, but since then I’ve been coached by Adam Morka, who is married to Emily Batty, who is our mountain biking Olympian,” says Hawke.
She says learning from Morka is special.
“It’s amazing being coached by Adam to put him on that pedestal like that it’s just incredible the motivation it provides that’s always where you want to inspire to be,” says Hawke.
Hawk says she’s fortunate the seasons of her two sports don’t really overlap.
“Rowing is my off-season sport so, as the mountain bike season tapers down, I typically pick up rowing and that becomes my main priority. I still keep up training and do a little cyclo-cross racing during my down time, but the seasons work out pretty well,” says Hawke.
Before choosing Ontario Tech, Hawke was looking to go to McMaster University in Hamilton. She stayed in Oshawa because of a scholarship offered by Ontario Tech.
“At first I was actually going to go to Mac. I came to the campus and I loved it, but the deciding factor on choosing Ontario Tech was when they offered me a major scholarship. Once I saw the amount of money they were giving me my decision was made,” says Hawke.
Hawke had to write a few essays to be able to earn the Presidential Scholarship. The requirements of this scholarship are that she has to maintain a minimum 80-84 per cent overall average in all her classes for the four years she attends school.
Since Hawke knows she has to have high grades to maintain her scholarship, she understands school takes priority over sports.
“Academics are always number one in my family so as soon as marks start to go, my parents say it’s time to step away from all the training that you are doing,” says Hawke.
“The way I look at it is I am personally driven to have high success in school so, it really comes down to budgeting my time and knowing when I have to get things done,” she says.