The NWT Track and Field Championships once again attracted more than a thousand young athletes to Hay River.
In fact, the exact number was 1,164 athletes and more than 200 coaches from schools and a couple of track and field clubs in 14 different communities for the June 7 to 9 event.
The impressive numbers consolidated the championships’ position as the largest annual sporting event anywhere in the NWT.
Tim Borchuk, one of the two co-ordinators for the meet, said the numbers were close to a record turnout for the event, which was celebrating its 27th year.
About eight or nine years, there were 1,190 athletes registered, he recalled. “But it always seems to work out that there’s always some kids that just don’t make it, and we always drop about 30 kids off the number.”
Borchuk, who has been helping to organize the event since 1998, was asked whether there is any explanation for the continuing solid turnouts.
“I’m hoping it’s because kids are becoming more active,” he said.
Plus, he noted all ages – from young schoolchildren to masters – can participate in the NWT Track and Field Championships.
“So it’s one of those events where everybody can have fun,” he said.
Borchuk is also impressed by the sportsmanship displayed at the event.
“It’s not necessarily the records that you remember,” he said. “I was standing at the discus and I was watching some young girls run the 1,500 and one young lady fell. And she was sobbing her heart out and then the next lap three other young ladies slowed right down, and paced her all the way to the finish. That was absolutely amazing.”
Borchuk said that display of sportsmanship made the meet for him.
As usual, Hay River was well represented at the championships.
Among the local athletes were Joel Demarcke and his sister Jenna Demarcke, who won overall gold medals in their divisions, just like last year.
The 20-year-old Joel Demarcke was participating in his 14th championships.
“When I started, I had fun and I did good,” he said. “So when I went away to school, I kept on running with a school team there. So when I come home, I keep training and run at the track meet. It’s fun.”
This year, he competed in the 400 metre, 800 metre and 1,500 metre races, and won the overall gold medal in the senior men’s division.
Twelve-year-old Jenna Demarcke won overall gold in the second-year bantam girls’ division.
“It’s kind of always special,” she said of winning gold after competing in the 200 metres, 400 metres, long jump and triple jump for her Princess Alexandra School team.
It was her seventh year competing at the championships.
Chief Roy Fabian of K’atlodeeche First Nation was on hand to cheer on three grandchildren.
“I think it’s really great that they have an event like this every year for the kids where they get a chance to try their athletic abilities,” said Fabian. “I think it’s good for them. I think it’s a good self-esteem builder for the kids who participate.”
This year’s event was supported by 351 volunteers.
Borchuk said that’s a conservative number because other people help in indirect ways, such as companies giving employees time off to volunteer.
“It’s a town event,” he said. “That’s what it is.”
One different aspect of this year’s championships was that the opening ceremonies were held outdoors on the field between Princess Alexandra School and Harry Camsell School because no arena was available due to the ongoing reconstruction of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.