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More than an athlete: Student, sister, competitor

Canyon High athlete excelled beyond the field

Posted: June 9, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 8, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Canyon High senior Janice Walker was the school's valedictorian in 2011-12 and was also the Foothill League discus champion. Canyon High senior Janice Walker was the school's valedictorian in 2011-12 and was also the Foothill League discus champion.
Canyon High senior Janice Walker was the school's valedictorian in 2011-12 and was also the Foothill League discus champion.

Canyon High graduate Janice Walker has so many positive things going on in her life that it's hard to find a drawback.

"Staying up really, really late and not getting a lot of sleep is definitely one of the downsides to it," Walker says. "Over time, I just developed into running on minimum sleep."

Sleep is probably the only thing she doesn't fully commit to.

Walker was Canyon's 2011-12 class valedictorian with a 4.69 GPA, and she's headed to UCLA, where she plans to study anatomy and biology and eventually attend medical school.

She's also the Foothill League champion in the discus, winning the title with a mark of 115 feet, 5 inches on May 4.

It took awhile for Walker to come into her own as a thrower, but that's OK. She's able to handle whatever you throw at her.

"As a freshman, she was more mature than most seniors, in my opinion," says Canyon track and field head coach Paul Broneer.

There's a good reason for that.

Walker comes from a good family background, with her parents emphasizing education from a very early age. She also has an older brother, Matt, who is autistic.

"He has a lot of difficulty learning and comprehending things," Walker says. "You have to be patient with him and help him understand. He's really a bright kid, it just takes him longer."

Fortunately, he has an exceptionally bright sister around to help him out. Matt is very capable of living his own life in some respects - he's a member of the locally based Transitional Learning Charter school and attends classes part-time at College of the Canyons - but Walker has done her part to help him out.

Matt's helped her out, too.

"I think that my brother has had a huge impact on who I am," she says. "From an early age, he showed me that people face different types of struggles and not everybody is the same. He also showed me how to accept everyone for who they are. Growing up, I didn't really realize that he was necessarily different."

Walker herself is different, in some very good ways.
She took every available AP class at Canyon, including freshman biology, sophomore chemistry, junior U.S. history, junior calculus and senior psychology, physics and literature. It's a grinding schedule, to be sure, but Walker had several friends in the classes with her as a veritable support system, including former Canyon track and field athlete Pilar Dizon.

Walker says her parents had a big hand in her focus on academics.

"They showed us that learning could be very beneficial," she says. "From an early age, we understood that."

So Walker parlayed that knowledge into outstanding academic achievements in high school. This year, she even won a $20,000 scholarship from the Los Angeles Police Department Memorial Foundation, which provides support for the families of officers who have fallen in the line of duty.

Walker beat out applicants from across the southland, including two others from the Santa Clarita Valley.

"The thing is, she's so smart," Broneer says. "You explain why she's supposed to do something, and she thinks about it and figures it out and realizes how to do it. And she does it."

That thought process has been very applicable in track and field. Walker joined the SCV Warriors youth program in seventh grade, and she started out as a sprinter, running primarily the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races.

In her first year at Canyon, she gave cross country a try at the urging of her father, but decided to commit to track and field. Instead of sprinting, Broneer and the coaching staff recommended that she try the hurdles, where she could consistently score points behind another freshman, Taylor Thomas.

When she came out for her sophomore season, she trained so hard that she developed severe shin splints. Walker visited doctors and tried to rehabilitate, but the splints wouldn't go away.

"She's one of those kids who never complains, but we told her, ‘You can't do this to yourself,'" Broneer says. "She tried everything, but she still wanted to compete, so I said, ‘Try being a thrower.'"

Walker's natural athleticism and wide arm span meant she had the tools to become a successful thrower. It didn't start that way.

"At first, I was really bad," Walker says. "After awhile, I started to get the hang of it."

Despite taking part in the discus and shot put, which Broneer calls the two toughest events to coach, Walker learned all the details. She learned how to accelerate.

How to maintain balance. How to release. How to train.

"Not too many kids figure that out," Broneer says.

As a junior, Walker finished fourth in the league in the discus and sixth in the shot put. This season, she helped the Canyon girls win their first league title since 2005, and her league finals discus mark of 115-5 ranks fifth all-time in Canyon history.

"It meant a lot," she says. "I didn't expect that to happen, so being able to come out and throw that far was just ... it was really cool."

Looking back, there was little reason not to expect it, given the proficiency Walker demonstrates in all parts of her life.

She's very thankful for the opportunity to do so, and there's no doubt she will make the most of her opportunities at UCLA and beyond.

"So many kids are spoiled," Broneer says, "and spoiled would be the opposite of her. She's grateful for what she has, and she doesn't take it for granted."




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