With one of the most anticipated events of the Hay River calendar looming on the horizon, students at all the schools have begun practicing their best events in hopes of bringing home the banner for their school and their community.
“It can be a bit of a challenge getting everyone organized and training and ready,” said Kelly Webster, Diamond Jenness Secondary School’s physical education teacher. “But once things get going, the kids know what to do and are pretty independent.”
The NWT Track and Field Championships bring thousands of people to the community at the end of the school year to compete. Hay River has the daunting task of holding its own as host community with the likes of Inuvik, Yellowknife, and Fort Smith for competition, as well as many standout athletes from smaller communities in the territory.
As a result, training starts early, with after-school practices for the older students beginning this week. Younger students are also introduced to the tradition, taking time out of regular class-hours to get ready for various running, jumping and throwing events.
“We did it last year too, but this year is better,” said Jenna Seaton last week after learning how to pass the baton in a relay race. “We practiced yesterday too and I learned a lot.”
While for many of the younger students the challenge is simply to run in a straight line and not get too distracted, they have the older kids around to cheer them on. Webster said that one of the best things about the event is the volunteer participation and commitment from the older kids who have grown up with the track meet being one of the central competitions of the summer, if not the year.
“They love watching the little ones on the day and when they’re just learning how to do some of the events,” she said of her older students. “There’s a job for everyone at the meet and the kids really step up and help make it happen every year.”
Some of the Hay River athletes also compete in national meets further south on the territorial team but for all that, Webster said she suspects they remember where they came from.
“I think they get so excited about the little ones because most of them can remember the days when they were that little and just starting out at track,” she said. “They want to pass it on.”
The event begins June 4 and runs to June 6.