Canada’s best post-secondary orienteerers took on the world last week and a Yukoner was in the forefront of the charge.
Whitehorse’s Pia Blake was consistently among the top finishers on the Canadian team at the World University Orienteering Championship (WUOC) in Miskolc, Hungary.
“WUOC this year was a pretty special experience. I have, in the past couple years, gotten used to racing against juniors but at WUOC almost everyone is a senior, so the level of competition is much higher. As a result, I used these races more as experience building rather than result based,” said Blake in an email to the News.
Blake, who attends Simon Fraser University in B.C., opened the 20th annual championship with her best result.
She placed 61st out of 85 in the sprint on July 31. She was the highest finisher for Canada for both male and female on the six-person team.
“The terrain here was very typical ‘continental’ terrain — broad fast hillsides with small point features combined with huge limestone depressions that you can ‘slingshot’ around,” said Blake. “Although there was a lot more green forest than I expected — thick and tough to run in for sure.”
Blake went on to place 64th in both the long distance race and then the middle. In both she was the top Canadian female finisher and second on the team.
However, it was the races that the team didn’t finish stand out in her mind. Blake finished her leg 22nd in the sprint relay and 30th in the forest relay before teammates logged mispunches, disqualifying the team.
“Both relays, particularly the sprint relay, stand out the most,” said Blake. “It was my first sprint relay, and I ran the first leg. The fast pace and tricky course and well as dodging locals who had no clue what orienteering was made it all the more exciting.”
Blake’s results at WUOC come just a couple weeks after producing a historic one at the Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) last month in Switzerland.
Competing at her fourth and final WJOC, the 20-year-old became the first Yukoner to reach the A final of the middle distance event — the only distance with a qualifier.
Not only was Blake the only Canadian team member to reach the A final, she was the first female Canadian to do so since 2012.
After qualifying in 20th, Blake went on to place 55th in the final, marking the highest finish ever by a Yukoner at the championship.
“I went to WUOC this year with the sole goal of racing at a senior level for the first time, so while JWOC went well results-wise, I put no pressure on myself to perform exceptionally. That being said, knowing that I can race well was certainly a confidence booster.”
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