Team Sask dominates cross country on opening day of NAIG
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | July 18, 2017
Team Saskatchewan has already earned seven medals on the first day of competition at the North American Indigenous Games.
The Cross-Country team swept the U16 (under 16) category with two gold medals in the 3-kilometre race, which was held at the University of Toronto Scarborough. The team also came away with one silver and two bronze medals in the female U19 6-kilometre race, female U14 2-kilometre race and the male U14 2-kilometre race, respectively.
Jaira Cross Child won the gold medal in the U16 3-kilometre race. She is from Saskatoon and has been training with the Saskatoon Track and Field Club and on her own 6 days a week leading up to the Games.
Unsure of what the competition would be like, Cross Child decided to stick with the pack for the first kilometre and then see how she was feeling.
“Then I heard the girl breathing hard, like she seemed pretty tired, so I took the opportunity and I passed her and then my lead just increased,” said Cross Child. “I felt really happy. I was like, ‘Yeah, off to a good start here!’”
Cross Child will compete in the 2000-metre, 1200-metre and 800-metre races along with the two relays in the coming days. She was added to the shorter races because there weren’t enough competitors.
“I’ll just do my best,” said Cross Child about competing in the faster races.
Dezaray Wapass, from Big River First Nation, won gold in the U19 6-kilometre race. Despite some nerves before the race, she said she was relaxed and confident as she ran.
“I just really thought about when I’m going to pass these runners and how I’m going to do it,” she said. “Some of them were slowing down so I just decided to … pass them and carry on with my own pace.”
At the end Wapass almost stopped at what she thought was the finish-line when she was really 30 metres short of it. She still came out on top and she said it felt amazing.
“I guess you don’t have to fear nothing at all when you know you’re going to do great at the end, whether it’s one finish line or two!” she laughed.
Wapass also has a full roster of events this coming week. She’ll be competing in the 3000-metre, 1500-metre and 800-metre races and one relay.
This is the first time the Athletics team has received medals in all six age categories (three male, and three female), said Team Sask’s Athletics team coordinator Derek Rope.
“Our coaching staff is so proud of the heart each one of our 11 runners showed today. It’s tough transitioning to the Toronto heat and humidity. So proud! We are going into Wednesday’s track and field competition with excitement, team spirit and Saskatchewan Pride,” said Rope.
The experience of the games so far has been fun and exciting for both Cross Child and Wapass.
“I thought the opening ceremony was really cool…I felt like famous. I was like, everybody’s here to see us, all these teams. I thought it was like the coolest thing ever,” said Wapass.
For Cross Child, the athletes’ village has been a highlight. She’s looking forward to making new friends.
“That’s something, like that experience doesn’t end,” she said.