Cadets from 14 units across Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon competed in intense biathlon races over the weekend in Whitehorse.
About 65 cadets from Iqaluit to Whitehorse participated in the event, which included skiing and shooting competitions, physical training exercises, public speaking contests and a variety of skill testing.
While much of the weekend was focused on competition and training, said Second Lieutenant Mathieu Doucet, who accompanied the cadets on their journey, it was also an excellent opportunity for cadets to network with youth who share the same interests.
“The expectation is not for them to go there and become experts (at biathlon),” said Doucet. “It’s to go, have fun and share an experience that’s unique, that none other than them will get to experience.”
Doucet said cadets get to meet new people, stay in barracks, learn new skills from trained instructors and show off their marksmanship and skiing abilities to fellow cadets.
“It’s a very different dynamic, a very inclusive culture, like belonging to a club,” said Doucet. “They finally get to share their passion and work together.”
Biathlon races were divided into two levels of high and low competition, and cadets were separated into three age groups – senior, junior and youth. Participants ranged in age from 12 to 18 years-old.
Cadets racing in the higher category competed at Grey Mountain, while the lower category focused on skill-building and training on trails at the Boyle Barracks training site. Winners from the competitions move on to compete at the National Cadet Biathlon Championship in Martock, Nova Scotia, Mar. 4-10.
While biathlon is an optional training activity for all cadets, it is considered one of the most important due to its emphasis on physical strength and endurance, as well as precision in shooting.
“Marksmanship is one of the main activities essential both for cadets and the Canadian Forces,” said Doucet, noting that biathlon was originally developed by Scandinavian countries as a military event.
A Fort Smith win
Five cadets from Fort Smith went to the competition, one of whom won in the junior category and will head to nationals next month.
Calista Burke, 12, placed first in the 4.5 km on Sunday with a time of 33:42, hitting four of five targets. During Saturday’s 3.9 km race, she finished with a three-minute lead on the second-place scorer, again missing only one target.
Burke said she started skiing before she joined cadets last fall and was excited to go to Whitehorse for the races.
“It’s lots of fun,” she said. “I’m really good at shooting but the skiing is my favourite part.”
The four other Fort Smith cadets, including siblings Grace and Mike Osted, Agnes Cockney and Ian Gauthier, went as biathlon rookies. Gauthier said the weekend was his first time on skis.
“I’ve never been skiing in my whole life and I wanted to try it out,” he said enthusiastically, noting how much he enjoys marksmanship training with the cadets as well.
The Osted kids, who have been in cadets for several years, said their favourite part was going on trips to learn new skills, along with meeting other Northern youth.
“I like learning things,” said Mike, 14, who is Master Corporal of his cadet corps. “With the cadet program you can even get paid to go some place interesting and learn new things. If I got paid for that all the time, I’d be rich.”