Fort Smith hosts 500 volleyball student athletes for annual territorial tournament

Click on the slideshow above to view captions.Photos: Dali Carmichael.

Despite some early setbacks, the seventh annual Lawrie Hobart volleyball tournament in Fort Smith went off without a hitch this weekend, with close to 500 students participating from across the territory.

The tournament was almost cancelled when the water was turned off at host school Joseph Tyler Burrell elementary on what was supposed to be the first day of play, an unfortunate circumstance caused by ongoing water main repairs at the corner of Conibear Cr. and McDougal Rd.

With some rejigging, including scheduling games as early as 6:45 a.m. and as late as 11:45 p.m., the games were saved and the eager young athletes were able to play.

The boys’ and girls’ age divisions ranged from Grade 6/7, Grade 8, U15 and U19. Each round saw the teams compete for the best of five game sets. In addition to the JBT court, students played at Paul William Kaeser (PWK) high school and the rec centre, all located within a block of one another.

With home court advantage, Fort Smith’s PWK did exceptionally well, taking five of the top spots, including three gold medals.

Both Yellowknife high schools, Ecole Sir John Franklin and Ecole St. Patrick, also made strong performances, persisting to take home three and two top place medals, respectively.

In the younger divisions, Diamond Jenness Secondary School of Hay River dominated the Grade 8 racket with their two teams taking one gold, two silvers and a bronze.

“I think it’s been a good weekend, the kids have had fun,” said PWK’s principal Al Karasiuk. “Every tournament there’s going to be glitches. You’ve got 450, 500 people – nothing ever runs smooth, but you just go with the flow.”

While the fast-paced competition was the highlight of the weekend, the kids also got to enjoy their time off the court, playing games at the rec centre, swimming at the pool and mingling at a dance held for all the participants.

Visiting students camped out at PWK, laying out sleeping bags and pads in the classrooms in lieu of the usual crowded desks.

According to Fort Smith’s Chamber of Commerce president Janie Hobart, who volunteers annually at the tournament dedicated to her late husband, the event brings in $60,000 to $100,000 of sports tourism revenue to the community each year.

“The businesses support the recreational teams so much,” she said. “We really appreciate the opportunity to give back.”

While this marks the seventh year of the Lawrie Hobart tournament, the community has hosted an invitational volleyball tournament for upwards of 25 years.

The tournament’s namesake Lawrie Hobart was a long-serving educator in Fort Smith who was as dedicated to his students’ recreational opportunities as we has to their academics, Karasiuk said.

Many of the teams will meet up again this weekend at the senior and junior Spike It volleyball tournament, to be held in Yellowknife.

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