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Thriving orienteering community holds sprint championship

Yukon orienteerers have a lot on the go this summer. In addition to a series of championship events that began Wednesday, three members of the Yukon Orienteering Association (YOA) are on the junior national team.

Yukon orienteerers have a lot on the go this summer.

In addition to a series of championship events that began Wednesday, three members of the Yukon Orienteering Association (YOA) are on the junior national team, one of whom will also compete at the world university championships, and seven are heading to Finland for the largest orienteering relay in the world.

If that weren’t enough, YOA recently found out it will host the 2018 North American Orienteering Championships. Yukon has been the scene of western and Canadian championships, but the North Americans will be a first.

There is simply a lot of enthusiasm for orienteering in the territory.

“A while back we got a lot of orienteerers who moved to Yukon and their kids have been on the national team for a while now,” said Whitehorse’s Leif Blake. “We have really great terrain and really great forest, and as Yukoners we really enjoy the outdoors, so I think it’s something we gravitate towards.”

Blake is one of the three Yukoners who will represent Canada at the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Switzerland this July. Also on board is sister Pia, 19, and Caelan McLean, 18. Both Pia and McLean both competed at last year’s JWOC, but this will be Leif’s first.

“I’ve been training pretty hard this year, so I’m hoping it will be a good first experience,” said Leif, 17. “We have a training camp in Europe leading up to the event and that’s in Finland ... Then there’s a week of training on the JWOC terrain with the other members of the junior national team before the week-long competition starts.”

The Blakes and McLean will also be on Team Yukon for the Jukola Relay in Finland, an 84-kilometre seven-person team relay, along with teammates Brent Langbakk, Ross Burnett, Jennifer McKeigan and Forest Pearson. The event, which started in 1949, is the largest of its kind in the world with 1,700 registered teams and 11,900 racers this year. Yukon’s will be one of two Canadian teams at the event with another from Ottawa.

Pia will also compete for Canada at the World University Orienteering Championships in Hungary, beginning at the end of July.

The national junior team members were in contention on the expert course at the Yukon Orienteering Championship sprint-distance on Wednesday in Takhini. However, two former JWOC competitors topped the standings.

Whitehorse’s Colin Abbott and Kerstin Burnett were fastest male and female on the 4.1-kilometre expert course. The map had been used only once before when YOA hosted the western championships last year.

“It’s relatively new and a lot of people aren’t that familiar with it,” said Abbott. “It’s a great urban sprint map. It’s got a good mix of detail in the forest and out of the forest. So there are some challenging route choices and I thought the course setters did a great job.”

“I had a lot of fun out there today,” said Burnett. “We don’t have too many interesting sprint maps in Whitehorse, but they did a really good job on this one. Often sprints around here are just running down the road, but there was a lot of actual navigation and route choices. That makes it a lot more fun.”

The next installment of the Yukon Orienteering Championships will be the middle-distance event next Wednesday in Copper Ridge, followed by the long-distance championship on June 15.

Contact Tom Patrick at

Top 10 sprint results

Novice (1.9 km)

1st Stian/Brent Langbakk - 19:15

2nd Sylvie/Pete Sandiford - 20:31

3rd John/Denise Chrisholm - 22:53

4th Ev Pasichnyk - 24:24

5th Kyan Morrison/ Janine Privett - 24:36

6th Benjamin Fecteau - 26:21

7th Wyatt Burnett/Erik Blake - 28:41

8th Aurelia Koh - 29:01

9th Annie McNeil/Heidi Rumscheidt - 29:03

10th Iliana Koh/Glenda Koh - 29:12

Intermediate (2.5 km)

1st Kate Tobler/Pat Tobler - 14:42

2nd Curtis Cash - 15:10

3rd Georgi Pearson - 18:07

4th Sabrina Bouayad - 19:56

5th Wendy Nixon - 20:41

6th Melissa Halpenny - 21:23

7th Gabrielle Lizee-Prynne/ Laetitia Rattier/ Ed Bourcier - 23:54

8th Beth Hawkings - 24:25

9th Kale Dar Neuman/Jenyfer Neumann - 25:23

10th Deb Kiemele - 26:06

Advanced (3.5 km)

1st Philippa McNeil - 23:11

2nd Justine Scheck - 24:00

3rd Sarah Murray - 25:20

4th Heather Milligan/ Juliana Scramstad - 28:31

5th Karen McKenna - 29:29

6th Lara Melnik - 35:55

7th Tess Lawrence - 41:09

8th Craig Brooks - 46:44

9th Linda McKeigan - 48:57

10th Rowena Beckett - 49:03

Expert (4.1km)

1st Colin Abbott - 17:21

2nd Leif Blake - 18:31

3rd Trevor Bray - 20:12

4th Caelan McLean - 21:37

5th Kerstin Burnett - 22:53

6th Kendra Murray - 23:48

6th Pia Blake - 23:48

8th Jennifer MacKeigan - 24:13

9th Afan Jones - 25:57

10th Travis Comeau - 26:22