Armed with only a map, a compass and sense of direction, 53 orienteerers spent Wednesday evening trotting through the trails in the Long Lake area.
Both members and non-members of the Yukon Orienteering Association came out to race the 11th event of the season.
These are usually held every two weeks on Wednesday evenings at different locations throughout the season.
“What we are trying to do is challenge the participant’s navigation skills,” said Afan Jones, a member of the Yukon Orienteering Association and one of the event’s co-ordinators.
“You have to navigate yourself between each control using the information on the map — you can use any route you like, it’s not a direct line. You use the features on the map to figure out the best route.”
This week’s event featured three courses to choose from. There was a two-kilometre novice course, a three-kilometre intermediate and a five-kilometre advanced.
“The courses are laid out in certain patterns such that you have to go through one through 10, and/or one through 12, controls, something like that,” said Jones. “And at each control site you’ll find a flag … and it’s marking features (of the landscape.)”
Electric timers placed at controls (or checkpoints) recorded each participant’s progress throughout the race. By inserting a small key that the runners carry with them, into the electronic devices, the times of each participant — at each leg of the course — is recorded.
Among the 53 in attendance was a full range of competitors, from young children to senior citizen, and first-timers to world-class orienteerers
“I’m a forester, so I used to work in the woods with a map and a compass everyday,” said first-timer Kristina Gardner, who finished second on the novice course with a time of 27:10. “It’s was lots of fun; I think this is a sport that I will really enjoy.
“It’s good to see that every level of people are able to do this,” she added.
Gardner’s comments were echoed by another first-timer, Tim Pealow, who took on the advanced course with an experienced friend.
“It’s not as easy as it seems,” said Pealow. “You’re not just using cardio, you have to look at the map and make sure you’re hitting the right check points — so you’re using your head a lot too.
“I would definitely do it again. The terrain is not just flat; you’re running up and down, running through bush, getting cut-up. It’s pretty fun.”
Among the competitors was Brent Langbakk, a world-class orienteerer who will be competing in the world championships being held this month in the Czech Republic.
“It’s easy to do, but I think it was actually in the wrong place,” said Langbakk, a member of the national team, referring to the final control on the advanced course.
His inability to locate the charge cost him roughly two-and-a-half minutes, but he still finished first with a time of 30:52. “It had me a little confused as to what was going on.
“I was a runner before and my wife did it and introduced me to it,” said Langbakk, explaining how he got into the sport. “I liked the combination of thinking and having to focus instead of just running. So there’s real mental element to it.”
After four trips to the world competition, Langbakk’s best result came last year and in 2005 when he finished 21st in his heat, missing a spot in the finals by six positions. Langbakk will be competing in the sprint event at the world’s.
Adam Scheck and a companion finished the advanced course second with a time of 40:35, outpacing third-place Forrest Pearson by just 21 seconds.
Cord Hamilton finished the intermediate course first with a time of 31:59, followed by Grant Abbott at 34:56 and Tim Beaver at 37:00.
For the novice course Jennifer McKeigham took first with a 26:40 finish and Kate Mitchell came third with a time of 28:43.
The next competition will be held at the Yukon College on July 16 at 6:30 p.m.
Information on future meets and the Yukon Orienteering Association can be found at www.yukonorienteering.ca.