Founder of Aboriginal track meet recognized as Volunteer of the Year
- Andrea Ledding | April 03, 2019
Derek Rope founded the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Track & Field Meet 11 years ago, and was recently honoured by SaskSport as Volunteer of the Year for all his efforts.
“We do coaching clinics, community clinics, we started Running Wild Athletic Club which is a registered track and field provincial club that communities can join,” said Rope, who also volunteers as the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) track and field team coordinator. “I think in the sport itself, there’s been a lot more community awareness, the sport itself is growing. I can see that for this year’s meet we have about 550 registrants that will be partaking, one of the largest meets in Saskatchewan.”
Eleven years ago it was smaller — 89 to 100 athletes, increasing to about 250 as the years went on.
“Last year there was a big growth spurt and again another 20% growth this year,” said Rope. “The level of competition is growing, athletes are breaking provincial records, people are starting to take training and skill development of track and field a little more seriously. And I guess that is both for athletes and coaches.”
“I was real surprised when I got it,” said Wapass. “It was a reminder that I did an amazing job. For our first cross country meet in Regina, I got a 6K personal best, one minute faster than the tryouts for the Huskies and I took four overall and that was a big accomplishment for me, after only one week of training with them. Being able to make it to nationals at Kingston for the cross country was big too.”
Wapass said the Aboriginal Track and Field event Rope founded was her first indoor event in elementary school which she came to every year, improving and competing.
“I love that more Aboriginal youth are looking into the sport of cross country and track and field because it’s not a common sport for Aboriginal youth,” said Wapass, adding that soccer, hockey, and basketball often mean track gets pushed aside, but that’s starting to change. Wapass and the entire Husky team will be out this first weekend in April, volunteering at the 11th Annual Aboriginal Track & Field meet in Saskatoon, something both Rope and Wapass attribute to partnership and team effort.
“We’re all one big family,” said Wapass.