Hay River preps for track and field

As the Southern edge of the territory nears the longest day of the year, young athletes across all of NWT are getting ready to test their limits.
The excitement for the preparation of Hay River’s Annual Territorial Track and Field Meet will culminate at tonight’s opening ceremonies at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.
The town will explode again with more than 400 volunteers, 1,200 athletes, 100 coaches, along with spectators and parents.

It is a record year for the championship, which is hosting more than 1,200 athletes and 35 teams.
It’s when the field is freshly lined and waiting to be used that the magic excitement truly begins to permeate the town.
“It’s a beautiful sight,” said coordinator J.J. Hirst. “For me, that’s awesome. You see it and you know the athletes are coming. Then the kids are here and track is here, and after that, it’s a blur from Wednesday to Friday between kids smiling and shaking hands, volunteers working.”
New to the event this year are new high-jump landing mats and electronic measuring devices for javelin and shot-put. This will help with accuracy and speed and safety.
“There are 800 kids going through there,” said Hirst, “and they take practice runs and free throws and that adds up to a ton of activity. If we can help make our volunteer’s jobs a little bit easier then we’re going to try and do that.”
“We’re trying to make the event better every year,” echoed coordinator Tim Borchuk.
“Every year is unique, but we want to be able to show the community that this is something we can do really well.”
Students will also be running around taking pictures of the event, which will be available online for purchase for out-of-towners who couldn’t travel the distance.
As the event evolves and coordinators strive to make it “bigger faster stronger”, Hirst said they’re also trying to keep with the roots from when the event first began. While it offers some  exceptional athletes a stepping stone for the Western Canada Games, volunteers and coordinators want to be inclusive.
“We’re trying to keep with the integrity of why the event was set up,” said Hirst.
“It was to get kids all over the North involved in sport and to give them a place to come and practice. We’re not trying to be elitist and we never will. If we can be a stepping stone for some athletes and at the same time offer an event for every kid in the North to participate in and come and enjoy themselves, then we’re doing the right thing.”
The event will also incorporate Hay River’s Drug Free Zone.
“I think that track is the perfect chance to promote this for other places,” said coordinator Jessica King.
“It’s nice to see what Hay River has done and  I think it’s good to show other towns that it can be done because we did it.”
Of course, the entire event wouldn’t be possible without local sponsors involved throughout the three days.
“We can’t give enough credit to them,” said Hirst.  “They make it happen and they do it every year. It really is a well-oiled machine.”
Hay River will also be host to a school new to the event. It will be K-Alemi Dene School’s first time at the annual meet, and the far and remote community of Colville Lake will also be returning.
Long-distance running will kick off the events today at 1 p.m. and the opening ceremonies will take place at 7 p.m. at the arena.