Yukon track and field athletes spent the Canada Day weekend racing in British Columbia, winning medals and tallying up other impressive results. This comes as they and numerous other Yukon athletes are gearing up to cross the country and compete in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).
Seven Yukon youth athletes participated in the Jack Brow Memorial Track and Field Meet, held from June 30 to July 2 in Kelowna. The track and field team brought home six medals and 19 ribbons recognizing top-eight finishes. All of the Yukon athletes finished seventh or better in at least one event.
Carson Nelson brought home three of the six medals, a silver in shot put, and bronzes for discus and long jump in the 16-17-year-old men’s category.
William Wilkinson brought home bronzes in the 13-year-old boys’ 100 and 200 metre sprints. He also placed fourth in the javelin throw and fifth in the long jump.
Kara McLean also medaled, with a bronze in the 14-15-year-old women’s discus event. Along with the medal performance, McLean won sixth-place finishes in shot put and javelin.
The results at the Kelowna meet are extremely pleasing to the coaches, Lisa-Marie Vowk and Eric Porter. They also show the hard work the track and field team has been putting in, with training held three times per week since May. The young Yukoners have plenty of talent bolstered by hard work, but limited experience with this kind of event.
“This was the first track and field meet for all of these athletes, so our overall team goal was to work through nerves, be prepared and to get acquainted with the demanding schedule of competing in a multi-day meet,” Vowk said.
Most of the seven athletes who made the trip to Kelowna are from the Whitehorse area but one of them makes the trip from Carmacks weekly to train with the rest of the team.
Vowk took advantage of the fact that the 2023 B.C. Athletics Masters Championships, an event for competitors 35 years old and older, was being held at the same place and time as the meet the Team Yukon athletes were competing in. She competed for a gold medal finish in shot put and a silver in javelin.
“It’s always so inspiring to compete with other master athletes. There was an 81-year-old female competitor and an 88-year-old male that made things look easy — still running, jumping and throwing,” Vowk said.
“It was so rewarding to have the Yukon athletes cheering me on — they really made me feel like part of the team, rather than just their coach.”
For the track and field athletes, the Kelowna meet serves as a prelude to the North American Indigenous Games to be held in Halifax.
“When we arrive in Halifax, I want the athletes to be as prepared as possible to represent the Yukon and hopefully bring home some hardware and personal bests.”
Vowk said all seven of the track and field competitors who were in Kelowna will be going to NAIG. They are far from the only ones.
The Team Yukon contingent bound for NAIG, which runs July 15 to 23, totals 133 athletes, coaches and mission staff. Yukon athletes are participating in 11 different sports. A team is also going for the cultural performance segment of the games.
This is the first NAIG since 2017. Halifax, known as Kjipuktuk in the Mi’kmaq language, had been set to host in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed things.
The sports that the approximately 90 athletes from the Yukon will participate in are: 3-D archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, rifle shooting, canoe/kayak, swimming, golf, volleyball and wrestling.
Among those assisting the team going to Halifax is assistant chef de mission Karee Vallevand. She predicts that the Yukon’s perennially-strong archery competitors will have a strong showing and that the swim team will work hard to match the successes Yukoners saw at the 2017 games in Toronto.
Vallevand praised the way that NAIG organizers on the East Coast have woven Indigenous culture through the whole event. She described the schedule as 50 per cent athletic and 50 per cent cultural with examples including spaces in venues for smudging and the presence of elders.
A group from the Selkirk Spirit Dancers is going to Halifax to perform. They will also be participating in a pep rally for NAIG athletes beginning at the healing totem at the Yukon River at the end of Main Street on July 13.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com