NWT Track and Field Championships cancelled due to COVID-19

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It was only a matter of time before it happened but the largest annual sporting event in the NWT won’t go ahead for 2020.

The NWT Track and Field Championships, which were scheduled for Hay River from June 3 to 5, have been officially cancelled, the announcement coming on Facebook on Tuesday evening. It joins a long list of other cancelled tournaments in the NWT, including the Canadian North Balsillie Cup, Canadian North Rec Hockey Tournament along with Junior and Senior Super Soccer.

Sir John Franklin won the overall and school grand aggregate titles at the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River in 2019 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. They will get to keep the trophies for at least one more year following the cancellation of the 2020 NWT Track and Field Championships on Tuesday. NNSL file photo
Sir John Franklin won the overall and school grand aggregate titles at the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River in 2019 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. They will get to keep the trophies for at least one more year following the cancellation of the 2020 NWT Track and Field Championships on Tuesday.
NNSL file photo

Tim Borchuk, who co-chairs the organizing committee, said they held on as long as they could but it all came down to what was best for the athletes.

“We have so many people – athletes, coaches, volunteers – that we feed and house in close quarters for three days,” he said. “I wouldn’t feel very good if someone goes back to their community with the virus and knowing they got it while in Hay River.”

Borchuk said he and JJ Hirst, his fellow co-chair, made the final decision in consultation with several people from government and businesses and it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction.

“This wasn’t a quick one,” he said. “We mulled this over for the last two weeks but we knew what we had to do in order to keep people safe.”

The meet generally draws more than 1,100 participants with an estimated 900-plus coming in to Hay River from communities around the NWT. Most of those people end up staying in classrooms and gymnasiums at the four schools in the town as well as other locations such as churches.

“We weren’t worried about the events outdoors so much but when you have that many people staying in an enclosed area for any length of time, the possibility of something happening is huge,” said Borchuk. “It breaks my heart to have to do this but I’m relieved that we finally made a decision.”

The decision also answered questions from businesses around town that were wondering what was going to happen, he added.

“I’ve been talking with our suppliers and people in the community and that was definitely on their minds,” he said. “They’re relieved that there’s been a decision made because it’s tougher for them not knowing what’s going on. In general, people have been gracious about it all. They understand why we’ve had to do this.”

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