On your mark, get set, go – Hay River athletes ready for track and field championships

Athletes in Hay River have been getting ready for weeks for the NWT Track and Field Championships – an event that draws more than 1,000 participants from around the territory.

It begins June 6 and runs to June 8on the track at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.

Thirty-seven athletes from Diamond Jenness have signed up to compete in this year’s meet.

Most could be seen practising after school for the past few weeks, including Grade 11 students Ian Keefe and Angeline Magtibay.

This will be Keefe’s 12th year participating in the track and field meet.

To prepare, the distance runner focuses on surpassing his own personal bests at home and away.

“There is a higher level of competition down south and I like to go to multiple meets throughout the year,” he said. “This is one of the biggest track meets in Canada and I like that I can compete at home.”

Keefe will be running the 800, 1,500 and 5,000-metre races at the championships, as well as competing in the javelin throw.

Magtibay is returning to the track after injuries resulted in a four-year absence.

She’s back because she has been competing for as long as she can remember. Not wanting to aggravate her injuries, she’ll only be taking on one event this year – the 100-metre sprint.

“I love track so much,” she said. “After this year, I hope to get back to full-on track events.”

Coach Joe LeBlanc stood on the sidelines yelling guidance as the runners raced down the track.

LeBlanc said he noticed an increase in numbers for practices on the field this year.

“It’s a great group of athletes this year,” he said. “Athletes can get out of this what they put in. If they want to focus on improving and competing, we can push them along a little bit.”

This year, volunteers and judges will be aided by a photo-finish electronic timing system that records when athletes cross the finish line.