‘We’re not in the business of stealing’: Fort Smith Track & Field Society looks for support from Hay River

‘We’re not in the business of stealing’: Fort Smith Track & Field Society looks for support from Hay River
Denise Yuhas, coordinator of the Fort Smith Track & Field Society, celebrates the construction of the new track last summer.Photo: Meagan Wohlberg.

While youth from across the NWT battled for first place at the NWT Track & Field Championships in Hay River last week, a turf war of sorts was happening behind the scenes over which community should host the event in future.

Hay River’s business community was on the offensive last week after rumours surfaced that Fort Smith wanted to share the hosting of the NWT Track & Field Championships, a feature of Hay River for the past two decades.

An article in The HUB, the local Hay River newspaper, included an interview with Fort Smith Mayor Janie Hobart who expressed interest in “working with Hay River” on growing the event, taking turns hosting it, or spreading parts of the event across the two communities.

Hay River’s Chamber of Commerce immediately put out a plea asking for community members to attend the NWT Track & Field Association’s AGM that week to vote to keep the championships in Hay River. Some of the emails flying about suggested the championships might otherwise be moved permanently to Fort Smith.

Denise Yuhas, coordinator of Fort Smith’s budding track and field society, said the messaging given to the community of Hay River was “misleading and untrue.”

“We’re not in the stealing business. Our intention is to build our facility to its fullest capacity and offer a great venue for training, getting fit and competition,” she said.

Yuhas attended the Track and Field Association’s annual meeting in Hay River last Thursday and gave a presentation on Fort Smith’s brand new track facility. She said the objectives of the new

Fort Smith society do not include competing with their South Slave neighbours, but rather seeking partnerships and sharing plans.

“Our intention was to let the NWT track and field body know that we have a great facility that we’re working on, and to give an idea of the scope of the quality,” Yuhas told The Journal. “We’re working hard here, and engaging the community in building capacity and positive activities for youth.”

Yuhas said she took the opportunity to let the community of Hay River know how much Fort Smith appreciates the hard work their organizers and volunteers have put into the championships over the last two decades, and said she looks forward to having their expertise assist Fort Smith in growing the sport.

“We are not going to host a big, massive competition tomorrow or even next year, but we are going to make the best use of our facility,” she said. “We are making plans and engaging track enthusiasts from across the territory.

“This track is an opportunity for the South Slave,” she added.

The Track & Field Association’s annual meeting included votes for their new regional representatives, but Yuhas said no motion was made to vote on the location of next year’s championship.

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