Diamond Jenness Secondary School’s Joel Gordon had a pretty productive few days at the NWT Track and Field Championships.
Coming in second place in both the 100-metre and 200-metre events, taking gold in the long jump and bronze in shot put, he medalled in every event he entered this year, his first as a serious competitor.
His efforts – along with the performances of athletes such as Skylar Horton and Chris Lirette – helped Diamond Jenness take first place in both most school-aged athlete points and most points overall.
While Gordon has participated in the NWT Track and Field Championships in previous years, he said this time was different.
“This was my most productive year,” he said. “I started training and it was the first time I had a coach.”
When asked what changed from previous years, he replied by referring to a friendly rivalry with another Diamond Jenness student: “I want to beat Chris Lirette.”
Lirette did indeed take first in both the 100-metre and 200-metre dashes, but Gordon said he would not be dissuaded.
Instead, he hopes to make it to the Canada Summer Games and is training harder than ever.
“I think the best moment (of the meet) for me was the 100-metre finals against Chris,” he said. “He beat me, unfortunately.”
Gordon claimed one of his favourite aspects of the event is getting the chance to compete against the best in the territory to see where he can improve and what skill levels are like outside of Hay River. The only other track meet he has attended, apart from previous years’ championships, was in Yellowknife two weeks ago, but the atmosphere was quite different.
“It was more just for fun and a lot less competitive,” he said, adding that, while the track wasn’t as nice as the one in Hay River, the meet was still a good opportunity to practise outside and get warmed up for the territorial championships.
But the championship meet was not only about fierce competition and rivalries. As the biggest sporting event in the NWT, it brought together athletes of all ages and varying skill levels to not only vie for gold, but also to have fun, gain experience and make connections.
“It was great to see people of all different ages, especially some of the younger ones,” said Gordon. “You can tell, just by the way they act, that some of them are going to be great athletes someday.”
Gordon’s coach – and NWT Track head coach – Joe LeBlanc was proud of all the athletes who came out and gave it their all, and said he continues to be impressed with the year-over-year improvement of skills and sportsmanship alike.
“They’ve all become better athletes,” he told The Hub. “We see more and more of them doing proper warm-ups and cool-downs, and that’s just great to see their knowledge of the sport always growing like that.”
But for LeBlanc, the real highlight was the level of sportsmanship present at all levels of the competition. He talked about two girls running against each other, but clasping hands at the last moment to cross the finish line together. And, he saw one boy hurt his ankle during a race and two other competitors help him get through the last 100 metres.
Now he has put together the selection group for the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que., in August, with a total of 62 athletes from the NWT, including 14 from Hay River, going to a meet in Edmonton in July.
“The (Hay River) meet plays a huge role in athlete development,” LeBlanc said. “We pretty much have four meets in a season and, at this one, they get to really measure themselves against the best.”
— Sarah Ladik