'Our community needed that': N.W.T. Track and Field Championships wrap up in Hay River

Ten-year-old Yevah Chepelsky-Tetso competed in the championships for the first time and said her favourite part was the running. (Carla Ulrich/CBC - image credit)
Ten-year-old Yevah Chepelsky-Tetso competed in the championships for the first time and said her favourite part was the running. (Carla Ulrich/CBC - image credit)

As the N.W.T. Track and Field Championships in Hay River wrap up, participants say it's been great to have the event back after a four-year hiatus brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and then by flooding and wildfires.

Youth from across N.W.T. competed in the event from Wednesday through Friday.

Fort Smith's Joseph Burr Tyrrell Elementary won the most overall points.

Hay River's École Boréale won the prize for the most sportsmanlike team.

And Harry Camsell School in Hay River and École St. Patrick High in Yellowknife won the most overall points for the amount of people they each had on their teams.

'It felt so good'

For organizer JJ Hirst, it was a a full-circle moment from when he used to do track and field as a student.

Although he didn't set any records back then, he has nothing but great memories from that time.

"I remember this field was full of trees, and I remember in gym class, we used to pick the rocks ... and for it to come from that to where we are today is, is amazing. I was also involved as a coach, and, you know, just love track. And I love this event," Hirst said.

He also said the energy has been high throughout the event, despite a lot of rain.

"Listen. Listen to the crowd there," he said, referring to the sound of spectators cheering.

"When our first event started — the high jump started on Wednesday at [1 p.m.] …  I heard the first roar, and it was just – it felt so good, you know? … I think our community needed that."

Around 120 people put in around 2,000 person hours to make the championships happen, said volunteer co-ordinator Dian Papineau Magill.

They do it, she said, because it makes people happy.

Event coordinator J.J. Hirst said the Hay River needed the track and field championships after four years of cancelations due to COVID-19, flooding and wildfires.
Event coordinator J.J. Hirst said the Hay River needed the track and field championships after four years of cancelations due to COVID-19, flooding and wildfires.

Event coordinator J.J. Hirst said the Hay River needed the track and field championships after four years of cancelations due to COVID-19, flooding and wildfires. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

"Look at all the smiles," she said.

"People are happy, the kids are happy, parents are happy. It's a big family event."

Ten-year-old Yevah Chepelsky-Tetso competed in the games for the first time this year and described it as "really fun," adding that her favourite part was the running.

"I don't know, but like, you have this good feeling," she said.  "When you run, people are like, 'Yeah! Go! And, like, it's so much fun. And then you get all hyped up and stuff."

Volunteer coordinator Dian Papineau Magill said around 120 volunteers worked on the event.
Volunteer coordinator Dian Papineau Magill said around 120 volunteers worked on the event.

Volunteer coordinator Dian Papineau Magill said around 120 volunteers worked on the event. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

It was also fun sleeping in a school and staying up late with her friends, reading books and braiding hair, while the boys played hockey in their quarters, she said.

"I've been watching a bunch of people over there do high jump, and it looks so much fun," she added.

"There's, like, a lot of anger sometimes. There's a lot of laughter. [It's] so shocking."