Yukoners navigate to 17 medals at nationals

One could say, Yukoners had the task of locating timing controls, under control. Team Yukon gave another big performance at the Canadian Orienteering Championships, winning a total of 17 medals the weekend before last at Spruce Woods Provincial Park in Carberry, Manitoba.

One could say, Yukoners had the task of locating timing controls, under control.

Team Yukon gave another big performance at the Canadian Orienteering Championships, winning a total of 17 medals the weekend before last at Spruce Woods Provincial Park in Carberry, Manitoba.

Of the 17 medals, eight were gold, up from seven last year when Team Yukon won 12 medals.

Giving an unblemished performance was Whitehorse’s Nesta Leduc, winning gold in all three events in the women’s 75-plus category.

Leduc, who has competed at many nationals with similar results, including two gold and a silver last year, attributes her orienteering prowess to a number of factors, such as the tenacity and focus that comes from being a doctor for 35 years.

“The job I’ve had all my life I’ve had to stay focused and I can’t be distracted,” said Leduc. “I was a GP and had to be on the ball all the time, and that’s a skill I’ve maintained.

“So I’m not distracted by other people on the course and things not going well. If you’re doing an operation, you have to keep going until it’s finished – the same with orienteering.”

The 76-year-old will be the first to admit that her age category has a very small field, but in the long-distance event Leduc finished with a quick enough time to get a bronze in the younger 65-74 age group.

“That was the one I enjoyed the most because it was really interesting terrain,” said Leduc. “If you looked at your map really carefully, you could meander all the way through open country; you didn’t have to go through the forest.

“If you have to run through the trees, you have to be very careful of your navigation. Where, if you can see where you’re going – 200 or 300 metres – then you don’t have to look at your compass and your map.”

Leduc, who began orienteering at about 60, “after my kids left home,” also sees her year-round active lifestyle and healthy joints as secrets to her success.

“I really enjoy the sport and I stay really active all year; I cross-country ski all winter and run a bit in the summer,” said Leduc.

“I’m extremely lucky that I haven’t developed any arthritis or any problems most people get when they get older.

“I didn’t do any sports as a kid; I was the fat kid who was never invited onto any team. I didn’t waste all my joints with injuries when I was young, so now I still have what it takes to keep going.”

As great as Leduc’s results are, she was not the only Yukoner to make three trips to the podium.

Both Jennifer Mackeigan and Lee Hawkings won two gold and a silver; Dahria Beatty grabbed a silver and two bronze; and Kendra Murray snagged the variety pack with a gold, silver and bronze.

Pam James, a three-time national team member, won a silver and a bronze.

“It’s fantastic to see her do well because she’s only been doing it for a couple years,” said Yukon coach Brent Langbakk, of Mackeigan who competed in the women’s 15-16 category.

“She’s the same age as Dahria and Kendra, but they’ve been doing it for a long time and really have their sights set on going to the World Junior Championships next year. So they competed up a category, so they were in the older (17-20) age category, in hopes of getting selected to go to the World Juniors.

“In the younger categories too – like the 13-14 category – we have lots of very talented up-and-comers, but they’re not making the trip all the way to Manitoba just yet. They will be in the future, so it looks good.”

Hawkings, who competed at the World Junior Championships in Primiero, Italy, at the start of July but was held back by illness, was happy with his performance, especially his clean run in the middle-distance race, finishing a minute ahead of the second-place finisher.

“It was definitely good; I was happy with all my races,” said Hawkings. “My middle (distance) gold was one of the best races I’ve ever had.

“I only lost about 35, 40 seconds on mistakes, which is really small in that type of race; I was just smooth all the way through.”

Whitehorse’s Colin Abbott, who also competed at the Junior Worlds in Italy with three top-100 results, had already left for university in Ottawa and did not compete.

“Come this time of year, he’s pretty focused on skiing, and he has university too,” said Langbakk. “He was already on his way to Ottawa, so it didn’t work out logistically for him to take part.

“I think Colin could have been another person that potentially could have won some medals.”

Both Abbott and Hawkings will be on the varsity cross-country skiing team this year at Carleton University in Ottawa.

The Yukon Orienteering Association will be holding its last meet of the season at Yukon College on Wednesday at 6 p.m. For more details, visit www.yukonorienteering.ca.

Contact Tom Patrick at


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