Orienteerers wrap up a week of competitions

Yukon orienteerers were navigating their way to controls on two sides of the globe this past week.

Yukon orienteerers were navigating their way to controls on two sides of the globe this past week.

Competing in their third straight Junior World Orienteering Championships in Aalborg, Denmark, Whitehorse’s Colin Abbott and Lee Hawkings have trudged through thick bush of the Danish landscape and are pleased with the results.

“As it was, I believe I raced as well as I could have in most cases. I don’t think I had a single mistake greater than three or four minutes in the entire week,” wrote Abbott in an e-mail to the News. “For the most part, I caught myself within 10 or 15 seconds of making a mistake.

“My concentration was good as well. I rarely found my mind wandering, or mental fatigue setting in while racing.”

“I am quite pleased with my results so far in Denmark. I have done a lot of things well and I have been orienteering great,” wrote Hawkings before the final day of competition. “I have made a few mistakes that have cost me and I would like to have back but that is the nature of the sport. I was pretty disappointed yesterday, not making the B-Final in the middle distance after making a mistake but the rest of the raced I orienteered quite well.”

Twice cracking the top-100, Abbott began the championships with a 112th-place finish in the sprint and followed up with 97th in the long distance event and 80th in the middle. Joining with two other Team Canada members, Abbott finished the championship helping Canada’s relay team to a 22nd-place result on Saturday.

“The terrain in Denmark is unlike anything I’ve run on before,” wrote Abbott. “For the most part, the land is flat with small details in the contours. There is little forest that is not logged or slated to be logged. This results in thick vegetation near plantations, rough ground where trees have been removed and open forest in areas that have been thinned out.”

Hawkings began his stay with a 135th-place finish in the sprint, 117th in the long and came 132nd in the middle. He also teamed up with a pair of Germans for the relay, finishing 44th.

“The terrain took a little bit of getting used too as it is quite different from the Yukon. However I felt quite well prepared after training for four days before the races began and I was ready when the races started,” wrote Hawkings. “One thing I’m not used to, which was particularly prevalent in the long, was very thick woods. Almost everyone came out of the woods that day bleeding and scratched up. In general though, I quite like the terrain and it is extremely detailed, intricate and challenging.”

After the North American Championships last week, a handful of Yukoners stayed south to compete at the Western Canadian Championships in Whistler, BC, taking in hardware.

Yukon’s Phillippa McNeil, racing in the women’s 35-44 age group, took first place in the middle and the sprint for a pair of gold medals.

McNeil, a former Team Canada member who competing at the 1997, 2003, 2004, 2005 World Championships, is just getting back into the sport after a few years off and also managed to win a gold at last week’s North Americans in the middle-distance event.

“I haven’t raced outside the Yukon since 2007, so it was really fun back at it and see all these friends I haven’t seen in a bunch of years,” said McNeil. “It’s nice to be racing again.

“The terrain was fantastic – the sprint in Whistler was amazing,” she added. “Everyone was talking about how it is probably the best sprint venue in North America.

“In Europe, you get these classic old towns with narrow, winding streets and pedestrian areas, and you don’t really get that in Canada so much. It was amazing to be sprinting around Whistler Village.

“There was a lot of intricate detail and it was really easy to get turned around.”

Other strong results from Yukoners came from Nesta Leduc in the women’s 75-79 category, Kendra Murray in women’s 20-21 division, and Trevor Bray in men’s 16-19.

Leduc, who won three golds at the North Americans and became a world champion at the World Masters Orienteering Championships in Australia last year, had a couple rare misses, taking second in the sprint and the middle distance event, but taking gold in the long.

Murray, who won three medals last week, added two more with third-place finishes in the sprint and middle-distance events.

Bray added to the three medals he won at the North Americans, taking bronze in the middle-distance event. He finished fourth in the other disciplines.

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