NAN track and field event featured more than 50 youth
A young athlete makes his landing in the standing long jump during NAN’s track and field skills development camp held on April 5 and 6. More than 55 youth took part on the first while 40 participated on the second day. It was the first event of its kind and 11 First Nations were represented.
Sandy Lake’s Jeffrey Kakegamic said it was a thrill to try out the shot put for the first time during NAN’s track and field skills development camp in Thunder Bay.
“Pretty fun,” the 15-year-old said with a smile as he reflected on the new sport. “It would be nice to play those things again.”
The Grade 9 student was among 40 youth who took part in the skills development camp on April 6, the second day of the event. The first day featured about 54 aspiring athletes from 11 NAN communities in northern Ontario.
In addition to the shot put, the youth also took part in 200 and 800-metre dashes, the standing long jump, the javelin throw, and the relay.
Gloria Hendrick-Laliberte, the event coordinator, said the first day of the meet was about teaching the youth the technical aspects of each sport and honing those skills.
“You can see a definite change in their form and even in the way they felt about running,” she said. “They had their heads up, arms pumping and they were looking ahead rather than looking around.”
With the shot put, “it was amazing to see the difference to see what good form can do,” Hendrick-Laliberte said.
Although Kakegamic has had success in running competitions, he said he learned more techniques during the development camp.
“Learned how to breathe and run properly, how to do long jump and everything,” he said. “Learned some new stuff from new people, and it’s good for learning from other people.”
Camille Vernier is another young runner than learned a lot during the camp. The 13-year-old from Nakina joined Aroland First Nations youth to be at the camp.
“I learned a lot about short-distance running,” she said. “I’m used to long-distance (where) you have to pace yourself. Short-distance is just sprinting.”
Vernier said she feels “very lucky” and “I’m very happy to be here.”
Other First Nations represented at the meet were Lac Seul, Sachigo, Moose Cree, Neskantaga, North Caribou Lake, Bearskin, Eabometoong, Fort Severn, and Keewaywin.
NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic called the skills development camp a success, as it is the first such event held by NAN and most of the youth came at their own expense.
“I’m so thrilled this is happening,” he said. “Next year will be bigger and better.”
The deputy grand chief, who holds the recreation portfolio, said it was challenge to put the event together, especially since there was no funding allocated for it.
However, given the issues facing First Nations communities, he felt it was necessary since he wanted to give youth a sense of hope and pride.
“This is one of the means how to bring our young people hope, through recreation,” he said.
“So they can do something they enjoy and that they’re good at. Because if you have a healthy individual, you’re going to have a healthy community.”
Kakegamic hopes the camp will evolve into an annual event.
Results were recorded on the second day of the camp, which Hendrick-Laliberte was a rehearsal for the youth should they enter a formal track and field meet.
Hendrick-Laliberte said the results could be sent to the youth’s schools for their own events or personal records.
She added that she is involved with Team Ontario and could possibly recruit athletes for the upcoming North American Indigenous Games in June.
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