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Yukon orienteerers rack up 38 western medals

Yukon orienteerers will have to be on their best game if they wish to out-do themselves at this weekend's Canadian Orienteering Championships.

Yukon orienteerers will have to be on their best game if they wish to out-do themselves at this weekend’s Canadian Orienteering Championships.

The Yukon team just finished winning 38 medals at the Western Canadian Orienteering Championships in Whitehorse Saturday through Monday.

Yukon took in 15 golds and nine Yukoners won medals in each of the three races.

RELATED:View slideshow of the event.

Two such Yukoners are Pia Blake and Caelan McLean, both of whom won golds in all three distances.

“It feels good. I had three really good races,” said Blake. “I really liked them. We had shorter legs, longer legs - they were very technical.”

Blake, who was competing in the women’s 15-16 division, was far out in front in the middle event, completing the course in almost half the time of the silver medalist.

“I made very few mistakes. I don’t think I could have shaved off anything,” she said. “I just had an amazing race. Middles are my best races.”

McLean’s three golds came in the men’s 13-14 division. Not far behind was teammate Leif Blake, another triple medal winner, beginning with a bronze in the middle distance, followed by two silvers.

“He’s a really good, young athlete and has a lot of potential,” said Yukon junior coach Brent Langbakk of McLean. “It’s nice to see him do well because he’s been doing it for a while and has come up through the system. He’s one of the youngest in our older training group, but he’s been doing it so long we included him in the same group as the older kids.”

Fresh back from competing at the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Poland, Yukon’s Lee Hawkings and Kendra Murray also cleaned up over the weekend.

Hawkings won golds in all three races in the men’s 17-20 division, finishing second in the middle, but moving up to gold as the top western Canada competitor.

“I’m really happy with the way things have been going this week - no complaints,” said Hawkings. “I’m used to these woods. It’s been a while since I’ve run on any of these maps, so I don’t think it gives me much of an advantage. But I grew up in the woods, so I kind of hope I know how to run through them.”

For the long distance race, Hawkings was nine minutes ahead of silver and 38 in front of bronze.

“I had such a good race. Nine or 10 of the 16 controls I had the fastest time on,” said Hawkings. “So I was just running really well out there; really smooth, really fast.”

Yukon teammate Trevor Bray, competing in the same division, won bronzes in the middle and sprint as the third finisher for western Canada (fourth overall in both).

Murray, in the women 17-20 category, won golds in the middle and the long, with teammate Kerstin Burnett taking silver in both. Murray also took fourth in the sprint, but came away with a bronze for western Canadians. Teammate Jennifer MacKeigan, also in women 17-20, moved from fifth overall into a bronze for the sprint and from fourth into bronze in the long.

“I’m really happy with that, those were really good races for me,” said Murray of her first two races. “They weren’t too fast, but it was really consistent orienteering. Everything worked out, so it was good.”

Burnett then finished the championships by taking gold in the sprint, giving her three medals in total.

“I had a really good race - one of the other girls made a mistake,” said Burnett of her gold. “For this weekend I’ve been focusing on my races, personally, as opposed to results, but I’m happy with them.”

Yukon’s Katherine Scheck, competing in the women’s elite, 21-34 division, won silver in the middle and bronzes in the other races (moving up from fourth overall in the long).

“I’m really happy with my results,” said Scheck. “I didn’t come here with certain goals of where I wanted to place, but I wanted to have clean races without mistakes.”

A former national team medal who competed internationally at the both junior worlds and senior worlds, Scheck spent years away from the sport until recently returning to it.

“I’m happy with how I did this weekend and I feel pretty prepared for nationals,” said Scheck.

Karen McKenna, in women 55-64, took gold in the middle and two silvers in the other races. In the sprint, McKenna finished just two seconds up from bronze.

Nesta Leduc, a world champion in the sport who has won oodles of medals at the national level, also won one of each medal in the females 75-79. Leduc won her gold in the long distance event.

Ryan Kelly captured bronze in the sprint for men 35-44. He also came fourth overall in the middle, but moved up to a bronze.

Hannah Shier won silver in the long for the women’s 12-year-old category, just 1:22 behind the gold medalist.

Ross Burnett won gold in the men’s 45-54 division in the long.

In the biggest jump up for medals, Jim Hawkings moved up from sixth overall, to a silver in the long as the second place finisher for western Canada.

Philippa McNeil, a former national team member who competed at four world championships, won gold in the middle distance for females 35-44.

Pam James, another former national team member, took bronze in the long event in the women’s elite division.

A busy couple weeks for the Yukon Orienteering Association, Whitehorse is also hosting the Canadian Orienteering Championships this weekend.

Contact Tom Patrick at