Annual track meet showcases talent, healthy living
- EFN Staff
Starters pistols going off. Shot putters grunting. Coaches and parents yelling encouragement. Saskatoon Fire Chief Morgan Hackl groaning after pulling his hamstring in a relay. These were the sights and sounds that greeted athletes and supporters alike at the 10th Annual 2018 Aboriginal Track and Field Championships (ATF) at Saskatoon’s Field House.
Over the din, the voice of Derek Rope directs athletes to marshalling areas and calls winners forward to receive their medals. All in a day’s work for track nut Rope who has been involved with ATF since the start. A former track athlete at the University of Saskatchewan, Rope and his friends devoted to track have been pulling together partners like Saskatchewan Athletics, the University of Saskatchewan and SIGA to offer a world class track meet for Indigenous athletes in Saskatchewan. “This year is one of the best yet. Over 390 athletes the level of competition always keeps getting better,” said Rope. “We have lots of athletes coming into the older categories which is great. It means they are participating later and sticking with sports. And it shows they are choosing healthy lifestyles.”
Dezaray Wapass is one of those athletes. She won the 800 and 1500-meter gold medals at this event. Some more hardware to add to her many gold and silver medals from the North American Indigenous Games. The 18-year-old grade 12 student from Big River First Nation credits track with making her a better person.
“Running makes me feel confident. It gives me a good feeling after I run. Like I can do anything,” said Wapass who aspires to be on the U of S Huskie Track and Field team next year.
A big draw was the annual Community Relay Challenge where local teams run the relay for pride and a huge trophy. Fifteen 4x100 teams raced the Challenge this year and team Amiskusees: Semaganis Worme Family Foundation are the 2018 Champions, edging out last years winners the City of Saskatoon Fire Department (silver) and the U of S Education Student Society (bronze).
Rheana Worme spoke about being the relay winner and also her family’s foundation role in supporting the event. “Our secret was having Amanda LePage on our team. She is amazing and fast. But our family has run our entire lives because of our mom. She is a long-distance runner since she was pregnant with me and she always encouraged us to be active and use our bodies in a positive way. And today was about being with community and having fun,” said Worme, currently a student at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. “And part of our family’s core values is to support Indigenous youth and women in our community. And to have this support from an Indigenous foundation at this meet sends the message that we really care about our communities and are willing to put our time and money into things that are important to us. This is our third year of supporting ATF and we look forward to more.”
Derek Rope knows the track meet only goes on because of the support of the community. “The Fire Department, the University of Saskatchewan and their volunteers. Lots of the Colleges came out. Sponsors like SIGA, and the Amiskusees Semaganis Worme Foundation came out and it was great to see them come in and run alongside our athletes,” said Rope. “BHP Billiton really stepped up also and allowed us to provide a world class experience for these young athletes.”
And it is athletes like Dezaray Wapass who benefit. “I plan to run for the Huskies. Something I have wanted to do since I was in Grade 6. I want to study Kinesiology and nutrition but will do arts and science first,” said a confident Wapass. “This meet is really good. It is great to see our people come and do this. Track is a very individual mental and physical sport. It is so inspiring to be with other Indigenous people that do what I do. I’ve been coming to this meet ever since I was little, just like these kids. It really brought me up and I really improved over the years. I’m going to come again next year so hopefully I keep doing better.”