Orienteerers take in 23 medals at North Americans

Just think, when the Yukon hosts the Western and National Championships next summer, local orienteerers will have a homefield advantage - not that they need one. A total of 23 medals - including 13 golds - were won by 14 Yukoners at the North American Orienteering Championships last weekend in Cranbrook, BC.

Just think, when the Yukon hosts the Western and National Championships next summer, local orienteerers will have a homefield advantage – not that they need one.

A total of 23 medals – including 13 golds – were won by 14 Yukoners at the North American Orienteering Championships last weekend in Cranbrook, BC. In fact, a few Yukoners medaled in all three events.

After winning a gold, silver and bronze at last year’s National Championships, junior Kendra Murray took home a pair of gold medals in the middle and long-distance events. Competing in the women’s 20A category, Murray actually finished second behind Finland’s Annika Kottonen, who was not eligible for medals because she is from outside North America. Murray also finished fifth in the sprint – fourth out of North Americans.

“She’s someone who has been orienteering for a long time and she’s a talented athlete in lots of other different sports, like cross-country skiing, so she’s really fit,” said Yukon Orienteering Association junior coach Brent Langbakk. “This year she’s become so much more consistent with her orienteering. She was able to minimize her mistakes and put together a couple really solid races. She just focused on her technique and did really well.

“Obviously the fitness is there, and she’s really fast, so the key for her was to have a relatively clean races. And she did that.”

A five-time Team Canada member at the World Orienteering Championships, Langbakk, competing in the men’s 35A division, took home golds in the sprint and middle distance events, and also grabbed silver in the long.

“In the past I’ve actually been training, and not coaching so much, so I’ve been competing in the men’s elite category,” said Langbakk. “I haven’t been training to run at (the elite) level, so I competed in my age category.”

A lack of conditioning perhaps played a part in Langbakk missing out on a third gold.

“Yeah, maybe a little bit,” said Langbakk. “The other races were a little better technically.”

Yukon’s very own world champion orienteerer, Nesta Leduc, continued her domination of the women’s 75A division, winning gold in all three races. Leduc, who won three golds at last year’s nationals and became a world champion at the World Masters Orienteering Championships in Australia shortly after, outpaced the division’s two other competitors by more than an hour in the middle-distance event.

“The reason why there’s only a couple people in her category is because most people that are 77 years old aren’t going around thumping through the woods, running over rocks, climbing over hills and looking for orienteering controls,” said Langbakk. “She’s managing to get through rough terrain, going through the bush – I think her longer races are, like, three kilometres of bushwhacking.

“She’s an inspiration to us for sure. She’s awesome.”

The Yukon had a few others who reached the podium in every event.

In the women’s 20A division, Kerstin Burnett won silver in the sprint and long distance events and took bronze in the middle. Trevor Bray, in the men’s 16A, grabbed gold in the sprint and long, and won silver in the middle distance event. The opposite of Bray, Pia Blake, in the women’s 14A, captured silver in the sprint and long events and gold in the middle.

Other Yukon medal winners include Afan Jones winning two golds, Phillippa McNeil winning one gold, Ross Burnett taking bronze, plus juniors Caelan McLean and Jennifer MacKeigan winning bronzes, in their respective age categories.

“I big highlight was how well the kids did,” said Langbakk. “They all won at least one medal and they put into practice what they’ve been doing for training. So it was really good.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to meet people from all over the continent.

“They had goals going in and they met all their goals. I’m super proud of them all.”

Meanwhile, two Yukon juniors are taking on the world in Aalborg, Denmark, at the Junior World Orienteering Championships.

Whitehorse’s Colin Abbott and Lee Hawkings have so far completed three races, including a middle distance qualifying event for Friday’s final.

Falling short of the three top-100 results posted at last year’s Junior Worlds in Italy, Abbott finished Monday’s sprint in 112th place and Tuesday’s long distance event in 97th. Hawkings came 135th in the sprint and 117th in the long.

In the middle distance qualifying on Thursday, competing in different fields of 53 competitors, Abbott qualified for the B final with a 40th place finish and Hawking qualified for the C final with a 44th place result.

Murray and some of the adult Yukon orienteerers will be staying down south for the Western Canadian Championships that begin in Whistler, BC, on Friday.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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