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Sports Talk: We’ll miss Hay River again this year, but they made the right call

So we won’t be gathering in Hay River for a fourth year running for the NWT Track and Field Championships.
Katie Hart lets fly with one of her attempts in the women’s javelin final at the 2022 Canada Summer Games in St. Catharines, Ont. She would break her own record twice on her way to a ninth-place finish. With the 2023 NWT Track and Field Championships cancelled, it’s another opportunity lost for athletes to show what they can do. Photo courtesy of Rob Hart

So we won’t be gathering in Hay River for a fourth year running for the NWT Track and Field Championships.

I don’t think anyone should be shocked by that — there was no way the town would be ready to host anything at this point in time. And why would it want to? There are much more important things to worry about than a track meet. Who knows when that fire will be fully brought under control? An evacuation alert remains for Hay River residents even though they've been allowed to return home. Those fire crews are pulling an effort and a half trying to rein it in and bless them all for doing so. If you see them, thank them.

James McCarthy sports talk column standard for Yellowknifer NWT News/North Nunavut News
James McCarthy sports talk column standard for Yellowknifer NWT News/North Nunavut News

It was absolutely the right call on the part of Tim Borchuk and JJ Hirst, the co-heads of the organizing committee, and you know they sat down and crunched the numbers big time. This is their baby and they want it to happen every year. 2020 through 2022 was the pandemic and now the fire this year. It’s been out of their hands every time.

We can’t be too spoilt when it comes to school sports over the last nine months. Things have gotten back to normal with all of the big tournaments happening, but there’s something special about the NWT Track and Field Championships. It’s the largest sporting event in the NWT with more than 1,000 competitors from all over and it’s a big deal for a lot of communities. For some, it’s a chance to travel and those are always memorable moments. You may think pulling an ‘iron lung’ — long road trip by bus — is harsh, but those were always my favourite parts of hitting the road.

You automatically think of the kids who are once again going to miss out. No fault of their own, mind you, but consider this: there is an entire cohort of students between Grades 9 through 12 who will never get to experience it. They can still enter as an adult down the road — it is an open event, after all — but part of the school experience involves playing scholastic sports.

Even here in Yellowknife, I heard the stories of coaches such as Tobi Taylor-Dusome running around trying to recruit whoever and wherever she could from St. Pat’s. I know this because my daughter was in her cross hairs. Knowing Tobi the way I do, she probably looked at my eldest and instantly thought shot put. That was my event when I did track and field in school. I don’t know if it rubbed off on my kid — I’d like to think it did, but who knows?

One group that will suffer — again — is Athletics NWT. This is their bread-and-butter event to see who could potentially represent the territory at major games such as the Canada Summer Games, Western Canada Summer Games and the North American Indigenous Games. The NWT basically flew blind at the Canada Summer Games last August in Ontario and there were some very fine performances, but it’s always nice to see what could be in the pipeline.

We lucked out that the team in Ontario featured some established athletes such as Katie Hart, Fiona Huang, Bryce Smith and Luke Dizon, but they won’t be around forever. The sport needs fresh faces and without any competition to establish those faces, there’s no telling what is out there. Athletics NWT doesn’t have the luxury of having leagues in which to draw from such as soccer and hockey have. I’m not saying the sport will die out, but without an event such as a territorial championship, the selection process turns into throwing crap against a wall and hoping some of it sticks.

And that’s a bad way to fly.

I’m sure we’ll be back in Hay River at some point so we can all enjoy what is three days of fun and frolic for most, competition and chasing championships for others. All we need is for the earth to stop throwing things in our path. And if gets cancelled again, we’ll be right back here again.

Anyone wanna lay bets for what causes cancellation next year?

About the Author: James McCarthy

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