The 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., are less than a month away.
While all of the attention has been on that, it’s easy to forget that another major games event is happening this year and Athletics NWT is already getting set.
The Western Canada Summer Games are in Swift Current, Sask., this coming August and Athletics NWT is following in the footsteps of soccer and wrestling in getting its affairs in order. The first big order happened in Yellowknife on Jan. 19 and 20 as athletes from around the NWT were in attendance for the weekend camp.
Harry Cassie of Norman Wells, president of Athletics NWT, was there and said the camp was for those who had been identified as a top track and field athlete in the territory.
“We had a working group of about six members that looked at the results from the past year’s meet in Hay River (NWT Track and Field Championships),” he said. “We looked at times and we looked at our standards. From there, we invited the best 24 runners, throwers and jumpers to form what we’re calling the cream of the crop. This is our first step in developing this group for the Western Canada Summer Games.”
Those who were at the camp were put through their paces with plenty of work done on technique and strength as evidenced by the amount of work done on sprinting and jumping.
The camp featured guest coaches from the Edmonton Columbians Track and Field Club in the form of David Lee Pong and Dallas Hendricks. Lee Pong would be a familiar name to some in the NWT as he spent quite a bit of time working with some of the territory’s athletes in the 1980s.
Cassie said part of Lee Pong’s and Hendricks’ work was primarily on developing the athletes, but they were also helping some of the local coaches who were at the camp.
“We have four of our coaches who (were) here to learn and observe,” he said. “The goal was to get them some exposure on how training is done.”
All of the coaches at the camp had completed Level I, he added, and the weekend was a practicum of sorts.
Zack Horton of Hay River was one of the athletes being put through the ringer and said it was a hard but good weekend of work.
“Working hard on some technical stuff and giving us some tools to work with so we can improve our stuff when we get back home,” he said.
Horton has his eyes on Swift Current and said he’s just hoping to be able to keep up the standard set by Cassie.
“I’d like to make the standard for some mid-distance events and maybe even shot put,” he said.
While the athletes invited this past weekend represent the best from the 2018 territorial championships, the door hasn’t been closed on those who didn’t compete in Hay River.
Cassie said he knows there are athletes who are good enough and if they can meet the standard, they will be given a shot to make the final team.
“From here, we’re trying to get the message out that everyone can have an opportunity,” he said. “Nobody will be left out if they can show they can hit the standard. If they can show that they can perform, they will be considered.”