Yukon orienteerers win medals at North American championship

Yukoners recently navigated to a dozen medals at the North American Orienteering Championships. Just wait until they’re on home turf for the next one.

Yukoners recently navigated to a dozen medals at the North American Orienteering Championships. Just wait until they’re on home turf for the next one.

A team of 11 Yukoners won 12 medals at the championships in Hanover, N.H., Sept. 23-25.

The Yukon Orienteering Association (YOA) is set to host the biennial North American championship in 2018 for the first time.

The association has hosted the nationals and western championships, but the NAOC is the largest orienteering event on the continent. So New Hampshire was an opportunity for YOA organizers to take notes on what to do and what not to do.

“The organization committee we have here has hosted lots and lots of big competitions so I don’t think it’ll be a big stretch for us hosting this one,” said Sabine Schweiger, a YOA board member and event director for 2018. “We have such talent here, from the planners and course setters. We have a lot of depth in the club.

“(We observed) some little organizational things: how they handled registration, some of the bleeps that they had. They organized one of the courses to go across a major road and two days before the competition their request was denied and they had to change courses really quickly.”

YOA president Afan Jones was the only Yukoner to win three golds at the championship. He beat between 21 and 24 other competitors in the middle, long and sprint races in the men’s 60-plus division.

Ross Burnett won two silver and a gold in men’s 55-plus and Yukon teammate Nesta Leduc the same medals in the women’s 80-plus division.

Whitehorse siblings Leif and Pia Blake also won hardware in the elite 20-plus divisions. Leif took silver in the middle and bronze in the long in the men’s division, and Pia took silver in the long in the women’s.

Teammate Caelan McLean placed ninth in the long and 11th in the middle.

The Blakes and McLean represented Canada at the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Switzerland this past July. At the junior worlds Pia became the first Yukoner to reach the A final of the middle distance event — the only distance with a qualifier — and went on to place 55th in the final, marking the highest finish ever by a Yukoner at the championship.

Yukon’s Jill Pangman was fourth in the middle and seventh in the long for women 60-plus in New Hampshire.

Schweiger placed seventh in both the long and sprint for women 50-plus.

“They were really well-organized events on excellent terrain. Every little detail was looked after and that’s what we really strive for to make a great event,” said Schweiger.

Erik Blake took 12th in the sprint for men 50-plus; Bruce McLean 13th in the long for men 60-plus; and Jennifer MacKeigan 17th in the middle for women 21-plus.

The YOA hosted the Canadian Orienteering Championships and the Western Canadian Orienteering Championships in 2011, and the westerns again in 2015.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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