Biathletes in Hay River kicked off the season this past weekend at the Polar Cup, demonstrating the strength of our local athletes.
The two-day competition saw four athletes from Fort Smith working against 15 from Hay River.
Coach Chuck Lirette is very pleased by the expanded numbers this year.
“Our enrollment has doubled,” he said. “It is really good.”
Along with being the first race during the opening weekend for the ski club, this was a race of individual firsts for many of the athletes.
“For some, it is their first race,” said Lirette of the newer members. “For some of the older kids, it is their first time skiing with the gun on their back, and for some it is their first time shooting while standing up. It really is a weekend of firsts.”
The races began on a snowy Saturday with the recreational division races in 2 km, 2.5 km and 4 km events.
Following those were the 6 km Canadian Biathlon Championships Qualifying Race and the Canada Winter Games Qualifying Race which saw a 10 km track for the men and 7 km for the women.
Sunday’s races began at noon on Sunday, with sprint races for the recreational division, in 1.5 km, 2 km and 3 km courses.
The day wrapped up with the 4 km Canadian Biathlon Championships Qualifying Sprint Race, and the 7 km mens and 5 km women’s Canada Winter Games Qualifying Race.
Vice-president Bob White was very impressed with the young athletes this past weekend.
He also noted that Ilona Gyapay, one of Hay River’s own biathletes is training at Augustana University in Camrose, Alberta with her school ski team in hopes of making the NWT ski team for the Canada Winter Games in Halifax this year along with her fellow athletes.
“The top NWT biathletes, Joseph Lirette and Mason Hachey of Hay River, and Gaylen Pischinger and Brandon Norris of Fort Smith used the weekend’s races as a Canada Winter Games qualifier,” said White, also noting that Hay River coaches Lirette and Pat Bobinski and Fort Smith coach Don True “led mixed teams of veterans and first-year biathletes through a very successful season opening competition.”