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Preparations well underway for return of NWT Track and Field Championships

The NWT Track and Field Championships are officially back on following a three-year absence and that means everything is getting organized.
Sir John Franklin High School won the overall and school grand aggregate titles at the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River in 2019, the last time the championships were held, as well as the most sportsmanlike team. Holding the most sportsmanlike trophy, left, is Robert Paddock; holding the overall grand aggregate trophy is Stephen Messier and holding the school grand aggregate trophy is Jaleel Tulloch. The prep work has begun for the return of the meet this year, which is scheduled to begin on May 31. NNSL file photo

The NWT Track and Field Championships are officially back on following a three-year absence and that means everything is getting organized.

That includes making sure there are enough volunteers to look after everything that’s needed to make it a success: timers for races, on-track officials, results runners and so on.

The person in charge of ensuring there is enough help is Dian Papineau-Magill, the organizing committee’s volunteer co-ordinator. She said interest in helping out has been great so far.

“We’re at about 75 per cent (capacity) and I’m still getting inquiries,” she said.

The championships are a three-day event and this year’s event will run between May 31 and June 2. Some volunteers will be working all three days, while some can volunteer their time here and there.

Papineau-Magill said there is flexibility in scheduling for people who can only help at certain times.

“Some folks can only help with breakfast before they head off to work, while others can only do a few hours here and there,” she said. “We are happy to have any time that folks can share.”

Like other territorial sporting events such as Super Soccer and the Cager basketball tournaments, there may be a bit of a drop-off in interest simply because it hasn’t been held for quite some time and Papineau-Magill is aware of that.

“The three-year gap is a bit of a worry as some schools have seen athletes graduate and, in some cases, coaches have moved on as well,” she said. “However, the interest from schools started even before we got our registration packages out. I think our numbers will be down a bit, but I believe that will only be in the short-term. This event is the highlight of the year for many of our students here in the North.”

The championships have traditionally been the largest annual sporting event in the NWT every year by numbers; athlete attendance has generally hovered between 1,000 to 1,200 in past years.

It’s an important event to the town as it’s an economic driver for many small businesses as those who come in from outside Hay River do spend quite a bit of money.

Patrick Bergen, the town’s assistant senior administrative officer, said the service and retail industries, in particular, see perhaps the largest benefits of the championships each year.

“The service and retail industry benefits significantly through sale of food, goods, and accommodations during the multi-day event (and) it’s not uncommon to see pop-up businesses tailor to the demand,” he said. “The event sees a lot of donations and sponsorships from the local business community.”

He also said the town also pitches in to help by offering use of the community centre for the opening ceremony, on-sire first aid and ambulance services, chairs and tables and staff members.

But there’s a sense of excitement around the town knowing that the event is returning, he added.

“It’s truly an amazing event for Hay River and the NWT,” he said. “The community opens its doors to welcome participants and cheer them on through the competition.”