Zhanayii Drygeese shatters AWG juvenile girls snow snake record

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Zhanayii Drygeese of the Northwest Territories is the new record holder in juvenile girls snow snake thanks to her tremendous toss of 246 feet to win the gold ulu on Tuesday.

Zhanayii Drygeese of the Northwest Territories gets set to send the snow snake down the course during the juvenile girls competition at the Hay River ice crossing on Tuesday.
James McCarthy/NNSL photo

The old record set of 226 feet, 6 inches, set by Nunavik’s Rita Masty had stood since the 2010 Arctic Winter Games in Grande Prairie, Alta.

The junior boys snow snake proceeded alongside the juvenile girls competition and it was Jimmy Cardinal of Alberta North who took gold with a throw of 298 feet, 5 inches. But the real drama was reserved for third place as Greenland’s Niels Arkaluk Heilmann managed to hold on to his podium spot after the final throw by Nunavik’s Naalak Mifsud came up just six inches short of Heilmann’s 292 foot, 9 inch effort.

“It was close,” said Heilmann. “It was only half a foot away from mine so it was good.”

Each competitor in snow snake gets three chances to slide the snake as far as they can down the course with their best throw being counted toward the final result.

Heilmann admitted he was closely watching the final numbers come in to see if he would stay in the bronze ulu position.

“I was getting a bit nervous,” he said. “It’s my first Arctic Winter Games. The course was definitely better than Greenland, a lot smoother snow.”

There was, however, a problem before Tuesday’s competition got started. The course had been prepared in advance but someone rode their snowmobile through both sides the night before, leaving deep ruts that had to be filled before things got underway. Upward of a dozen volunteers and officials frantically took snow and packed it into the deepest ruts to make things as decent as possible.

Peter Daniels, head official for Dene games, wasn’t too pleased with what he saw when he arrived.

“A very unfortunate start to the day,” he said. “We were having our officials’ meeting in the morning and Andy McKay (sport chair for Dene games) came and said he had bad news and it was that Ski-Doos were ripping up and down the track (Monday night). We were working on the track all week and it was untouched. Then someone decides the day before the competition to do that. It’s very disrespectful because everyone knew what was going on down here. Just thoughtless and very inconsiderate.”

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