Skiing to Greenland


Michaela Crook, left, and Elli Cunningham, both of Hay River, round the last corner during a ski biathlon race on Dec. 12 during the territorial trials for the Arctic Winter Games.

Michaela Crook, left, and Elli Cunningham, both of Hay River, round the last corner during a ski biathlon race on Dec. 12 during the territorial trials for the Arctic Winter Games.

Four Hay River biathletes booked their tickets to the upcoming Arctic Winter Games during territorial trials over the weekend at their home club.

By succeeding at the trials, they will now be heading to the Games in Greenland in March.

The four, who all made Team NWT in ski biathlon, are Kjel Crook in the junior male category, Michaela Crook in the junior female category, Gaius Crook in the juvenile male category and Elli Cunningham in the juvenile female category.

Speaking before racing on Dec. 12, Cunningham was hopeful of her chances to make the team, saying it would be good to take a second trip to the games.

“I’m really hoping I make it. It was amazing to go last time,” she said of her previous experience at the Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“The competition is really good,” Cunningham said of the biathlon trials in both ski and snowshoe biathlon. “I have seven competitors in my category.”

The other members of the NWT’s ski biathlon team are Angus Martin of Yellowknife, Calista Burke of Fort Smith, Spencer Littlefair of Yellowknife and Bronwyn Rutherford-Simon of Fort Smith.

The snowshoe biathlon team will be made up of Jacob Klengenberg from Ulukhaktok, Dakota Koe from Fort McPherson, Jay Wright from Fort McPherson, Sky Lennie from Fort Simpson, Matthias Steiner from Tsiigehtchic, Julienne Chipesia from Inuvik, Lucy Ann Okheena from Ulukhaktok and Xander McMahon from Fort Smith.

In all, 25 young athletes tried out during the races on Dec. 11 and 12.

“We take the total times for two races, combine them together and the top two become our team going to Arctic Winter Games,” said Doug Swallow, the chief of competition.

Swallow said the trials were highly competitive, with biathletes coming from Inuvik, Ulukhaktok, Fort McPherson, Aklavik, Yellowknife, Lutsel K’e, Fort Smith, Hay River and Fort Simpson.

Following the trials, Chuck Lirette of Hay River and Suzanne Sihikal of Fort Smith were also named to the coaching staff for the AWG biathlon team. They join head coach Robert Plamondon and Lorraine McDonald, both of Hay River, who were earlier named to the staff.

Biathlon was one of two AWG territorial trials held over the weekend in Hay River.

The other was to select the members of the under-19 male and female basketball teams.

Five girls and one boy from Hay River tried out but were successful in making the teams.

Yellowknife’s Nikki Grobbecker, the head coach of the female team, said 38 girls tried out from all over the NWT, and it was a “pretty competitive” trial.

“It was really great to see girls out from Inuvik, Deline, Yellowknife, Fort Smith and Hay River,” she said. “There were a lot of girls from across the territory, which is something that hasn’t always happened in the past.”

Ten players and three alternatives, ranging in age from 13 to 18, were chosen for the girls’ team.

Three of them came from Deline and the rest from Yellowknife.

When asked about the participants in the trials from Hay River, Grobbecker said, “I think you do notice the girls don’t play all year round, whereas in some of the other communities they have basketball programs that can run the full year round.”

Yellowknife’s Aaron Wells, the coach of the male team, said 37 boys came to the open tryouts.

“They came from all over the territories,” he said, listing Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Fort McPherson, Deline, Fort Good Hope, Fort Smith, Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Simpson.

Despite not making the team, Hay River’s Jared Buggins was upbeat about the experience of attending the trials, noting he learned ways to improve his game.

“I learned that I could pass more,” he said with a laugh.

The 16-year-old Buggins, a Grade 11 student at Diamond Jenness Secondary School, said he was happy because he tried his best.

While disappointed not to have made the team, he said, “It’s alright. I try again harder next time.”

Wells said one of the reasons Hay River was chosen as the site of the basketball trials was to promote the sport in the community and the South Slave.