April 9, 2020

Nunavik student athletes get in the game [including half-marathon in the Cayman Islands]

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By Elaine Anselmi From Nunatsiaq News

Jaanimmarik School students Matthew Hubloo and Kylie Tagoona take their places at a regional cross-country meet in Sept-Îles, Quebec, over the weekend of Oct. 19. (Courtesy Antoine Dufour-Simard)

Kativik school board joins provincial sports organization

When six students from Jaanimmarik School in Kuujjuaq raced in a cross-country meet recently in Sept-Îles, Quebec, they were taking part in what could be the first step towards more affordable travel to sporting events for Nunavik youth.

“We’re trying to bring something more affordable to schools and teachers responsible for these events and trips. Sometimes it can be intimidating to organize having to raise $30,000 to $40,000,” said Samuel Forget, an education consultant for health, wellness and physical activity with the regional school board, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq.

“This is more affordable and there are more options too, and a lot of the organization is done.”

Nunavik student athletes currently travel to larger competitions, including a half-marathon in the Cayman Islands, as well as the Arctic Winter Games.

But the significant costs of airfares, hotels, meals—not to mention the coordination of all these things—limit how much participation is possible. Forget and the school board would like to see as many students participating in competitive sporting events as possible.

To do that, he’s teamed up with the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec, or RSEQ, formerly known as the Quebec Student Sports Federation. It’s the province’s governing body of student sports at both the elementary and university level.

It hosts regional and province-wide competitions in sports, ranging from table tennis to hockey, including track and field, volleyball and basketball.

They organize lodging at a cost of about $7 per student and meals for about $11, said Forget. With Air Inuit offering a discount on flights, he said they managed to take part in their first RSEQ competition for about $12,000.

At the cross-country meet over the weekend of Oct. 19 in Sept-Îles, the Jaanimmarik students raced against 600 students from across Côte-Nord, in northeastern Quebec.

“They all did great,” said Forget. With most students coming in around the middle of the pack, one Jaanimmarik runner came in just behind the top bracket that will move on to provincials. She’ll be the first called up should anyone back out.

The Côte-Nord region, though it technically falls south of Nunavik at the Labrador border, has agreed to include Kativik students into its division, sparing the need to create a separate division for Nunavik.

“They were really welcoming and we’re so glad they opened the region for us,” said Forget. “Without that we’d be struggling to find a region or create a region, to sell the idea of us joining the organization like that.”

Côte-Nord faces some of the same logistical hurdles as Nunavik, with several fly-in communities and a scattered population. Among their five school boards, they have an entire board that covers communities accessible only by plane, said Forget.

That means they already have systems in place to help ensure Nunavik student athletes benefit from what the provincial organization has to offer.

At the cross-country meet, Forget said one of the Innu representatives from Côte-Nord told them if they needed any help or advice, the Innu communities would be happy to help them.

Phys-ed teacher Antoine Dufour-Simard, one of the coaches who brought the students to Sept-Îles, said the Kuujjuaq students had a great experience competing, as well as interacting with other students.

“The kids from Kuujjuaq were really proud of showing their culture,” said Dufour-Simard.

Etua Mark Greigmunick, a Grade 9 student at Jaanimmarik, raced in Sept-Îles and said he appreciated being able to get to another level of competition.

As well as organizing events, RSEQ provides material to schools for health and wellness initiatives, like anti-smoking campaigns. “Once you’re affiliated, it’s way more than just cross-country,” said Forget.

Jaanimmarik’s cross-country team was the pilot project for this initiative, said Forget. It all started because Dufour-Simard and Cynthia Gaudreault-Snowball, who is also a phys-ed teacher at Jaanimmarik, wanted to get their team to a competition. They had been practising in town, running events locally, and preparing to run tryouts.

It was only when they started looking into RSEQ competitions that they realized Kativik wasn’t yet affiliated.

After Christmas, Forget said they’re looking at getting the Jaanimmarik volleyball team involved in RSEQ regional competitions. For the next school year, he’d like to see more schools across Nunavik take part and, eventually, have the whole board affiliated, rather than individual schools.

“My goal would be to spread the news before we leave for the summer so people know coming back, they can apply for projects starting September and October,” said Forget. “They can plan ahead, do fundraising and prepare everything to go to events like regionals.”

For more on this story go to: https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/nunavik-student-athletes-get-in-the-game/

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