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Yukon orienteerer makes historic run at junior worlds

Whitehorse’s Pia Blake saved her best for last. Competing at her fourth and final Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) Blake produced a historic finish last week in Switzerland.

Whitehorse’s Pia Blake saved her best for last.

Competing at her fourth and final Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) Blake produced a historic finish last week in Switzerland.

The 20-year-old became the first Yukoner to reach the A final of the middle distance event – the only distance with a qualifier – last Wednesday.

“The middle quali(fier) stands out the most for me. Technically, I had an almost flawless race, and I felt like I was flying through the forest,” said Blake in an email to the News.

“I was vibrating when I finished … I crossed the finish line in ninth of my heat, and only the top 20 of each heat move on to the A final. Because I started relatively early in the day, I ended up qualifying in 20th place.”

Not only was Blake the only Canadian team member to reach the A final, she is the first female Canadian to do so since 2012.

After qualifying in 20th, Blake went on to place 55th in the final on Thursday, marking the highest finish ever by a Yukoner at the championship.

“I was definitely the most prepared physically for this JWOC, and was the least unsettled by the pressure,” said Blake. “This JWOC was also very unusual in terms of the variety of terrain – from sub-alpine forests for the long, to tall, old forests for the middle and relay, to a twisty, narrow-streeted town for the sprint.”

Blake opened the championship placing 114th out of 145 in the sprint – second for Canada – on July 10. She then moved into double digits with 86th – again second for Canada – in the long on July 11.

“The atmosphere was, as always, invigorating, and this year the terrain was also exceptional,” said Blake. “Of all of my years, I think that this year I was most able to interpret the map properly.”

Blake wasn’t the only Yukoner on the Canadian team. She was joined by younger brother Leif, competing in his first JWOC, and Caelan McLean of Whitehorse, competing in his second.

“The competitive yet friendly atmosphere was quite unlike anything I had experienced before in orienteering,” said Leif in an email. “It was very exciting to go out and race against the world’s best, knowing that every small mistake meant a lot in this tight field. For my first JWOC, I was very pleased with how I performed.”

Leif opened his first JWOC finishing 134th – second for Canada – out of 167 racers in the long event. He then took 110th in the long, just 18 seconds behind McLean.

In the middle qualifier he was 28th – just one minute, nine seconds from qualifying for the A final and went on to place 45th in the B final.

He finished with helping the Canadian male relay team take 16th out of 35 teams in the relay race on Friday.

“The middle qualifier was definitely my best race,” said Leif. “The terrain was very open and easy to run through, which made for a fast paced race. I was able to get a good grip on my navigation and push very hard throughout the course. Unfortunately this focus did not come quite soon enough, and I lost about 1.5 minutes to the first control.”

McLean placed 153rd in the sprint, 107th in the long – second for Canada – 44th in the middle qualifier, and 15th in the middle C final.

“A massive thank you to all the volunteers who made this possible, and especially to our Canadian team leaders, coaches and families,” added Pia.

Contact Tom Patrick at