There is a National Orienteering Week early in the season in May, but for competitive orienteerers August is the important month.
Members of the Yukon Orienteering Association recently wrapped up 10 days of events, camps and competitions at the Canadian and then the Western Canadian Orienteering Championships in B.C.
Yukoners collected 20 medals at the Canadian championships in Whistler and then nine at the westerns in Savona, near Kamloops, ending on Sunday.
“It was super, amazing terrain,” said Whitehorse’s Brent Langbakk. “Whistler had some really neat experiences. We actually took a gondola up Blackcomb Mountain to the start … and we were orienteering on the forested slopes of Blackcomb Mountain.
“It was different from what we’re used to; some old-growth forests, cliffs, big boulders, and really steep slopes.
“At westerns, it was really different again … Lots of grasslands and open areas and open pine forests. It was really fun.”
Savannah Cash led the Yukon squad at the nationals in Whistler. Cash, who competed in the women’s 14-year-old division, was one of four Yukoners to win a medal in each distance at nationals.
“I wasn’t expecting to win much, so it feels good to win,” said Cash. “It was really pretty there and worth going…
“It was a lot fun … it was pretty different in Whistler than here orienteering. And way hotter … The forests were more dense and harder to go through sometimes.”
Cash won silver in the middle before gold in the long and sprint. The sprint “was petty easy – I didn’t make any big mistakes in that one,” said Cash. “This one was done where all the shopping malls are in Whistler. So for the sprint you had to run through buildings and stuff.”
Whistler wasn’t the first time Cash was a triple-medal winner at nationals. The 14-year-old won a gold and two bronze in 2012.
“She’s been in our junior program for quite a few years now,” said Langbakk. “We didn’t send a junior team like we have in the past … She went down with her dad and obviously did really well.”
Yukon’s Kerstin Burnett managed to win three medals in the tough women’s 21 elite division. Burnett, who competed for Canada at the senior world championships last year, took silver in the middle and bronze in the sprint and long in Whistler.
Sara Nielsen, competing in women’s 35, snatched silver in the middle and sprint, and bronze in the long.
Whitehorse’s Barbara Scheck was the another to medal in each distance. Scheck, who was in the women’s 55 age group, navigated to silver in each distance.
Iron woman Nesta Leduc was the only other Yukoner than Cash to win a gold in an individual race. Racing in the women’s over-80 division, Leduc pocketed gold in the middle and the sprint. She then followed up with silver in all three distances at the westerns in Savona.
Leduc won two bronze at the World Masters Orienteering Championships in Italy last summer.
“Nesta is such an inspiration,” said Langbakk. “I hope when I’m over 80 years old I’m in the wilderness navigating.”
Langbakk was out of commission with concussion symptoms for eight months and is only just getting back on the trails. However, the five-time Team Canada member won silver in the middle and the long for men 35 at nationals.
He then took two silver and a gold in the middle distance at westerns.
“I was on my couch for eight months, missed a lot of work, so it was nice to get back into orienteering,” said Langbakk. “I had good races.”
Fellow Yukoner Caelan McLean, racing in the men’s 20 division, picked up silver in the sprint and bronze in the long. He then returned home from the westerns with three medals, winning silver in the middle and long, and bronze in the sprint.
“He’s running in the 17-20 category and he’s at the younger end of that category,” said Langbakk. “He had some good performances; he did really well too. I think in a year or two he’s going to be outstanding. He was lacking a little bit of consistency compared to the top, top guys, but did really well.”
Langbakk, McLean and Forest Pearson then teamed up to win gold in one relay, while fellow Yukoners Cash, Jill Pangman, and Bruce McLean snatched silver in another.
Yukon’s 20 medals is up from nine last year. Orienteerers from the territory captured 32 medals in 2012, and 37 while hosting the championships in 2011, both with much larger teams.
“It’s definitely a smaller contingent than we’ve have in past year. Fewer juniors went down,” said Langbakk.
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