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Cadets skiing uphill in Naujaat

It was a weekend of meeting old friends, having a little friendly competition and enjoying all their was to see and do at the annual cadet biathlon challenge in Whitehorse, Yukon, earlier this month.

The 3055 RCACC Naujaat sent 21 cadets to the biathlon, and managed to bring home a couple of bronze medals from an event that's mostly uphill for them due to the poor training conditions in the Kivalliq.

Naujaat cadets, from left, Bridgette Malliki, Melanie Kaunak, Kasandra Katokra, Capt. Lloyd Francis, Mary Chantel Nanordluk and James Alaralak enjoy the view while Leo Jr. Ijjangiaq catches a ride on Ernie Inaksajak during the biathlon challenge at Whitehorse, Yukon, on Feb. 10. photo courtesy 3055 RCACC

3055 commanding officer Lloyd Francis said all eight Naujaat cadets who were competing on Feb. 10 and 11 managed to finish their race.

He said the Naujaat corps also had eight cadets take part in a biathlon training program at the event's base camp, and four more were involved in support services during the weekend.

"It's definitely difficult for our cadets to compete against Yellowknife and Whitehorse because they have actual biathlon clubs in both those capital cities," said Francis.

"Our kids are fit enough and determined enough to compete, but they sometimes lack some of the technical aspects of the event.

"None of the Nunavut cadets made the national team, but they did have a strong finish at this event, and two Rankin cadets were selected as cadet coaches.

"This is the only event of the year that's just for cadets from the three territories, so it's the only one that sees all Northern cadets get together at the same place for the same purpose."

Francis said Whitehorse is also where the Naujaat corps send its cadets for summer camp, so the biathlon is a nice opportunity for new cadets to see where they could be going for the summer.

He said the event also gives his cadets a true sense of competition.

"Our cadets are really competitive and they want to finish their race.

"I often tell them it really doesn't matter where they place, as long as they persevere and really push themselves to get through the course and finish.

"And, trying their best and not giving up, that's all I really want from them.

"So the three aspects of getting all the Northern cadets together, giving them the chance to checkout Whitehorse, and an opportunity to persevere and finish a difficult competition are what make the biathlon a special event."

Francis said the Naujaat cadets enjoy the challenge the biathlon presents them, and they also just like being a part of an event just for the Northern cadets.

He said some of his newer skiers are happy just to finish, and they love the chance to meet other cadets from around the North.

He said some of his cadets, however, take the event quite seriously.

"I have some cadets who really take the biathlon seriously and who really push themselves.

"Some of the results we had this year were really not all that far behind the leaders, so they were very competitive.

"But they really cheer on other cadet corps, too, especially corps with cadets they know from summer camp, so it's not like they're not happy when other cadet corps win, and that's the attitude I like to see."

Francis said like any cadet gathering outside of Nunavut, the biathlon still produces the odd 'wow' from first-time travellers.

He said one 16-year-old cadet was travelling outside Nunavut for her first time at the biathlon, and seeing trees for the first time was, definitely, a wow moment for her.

"That part of it, when a cadet is travelling outside of Nunavut and experiencing new things for the first time, will always produce special moments, and it's one of the things that make the cadet program so important to our kids.

"Going forward, we're hoping Mother Nature will co-operate sooner or later and we'll finally get to hold our 20th anniversary gathering.

"We started our marksmanship shooting this past weekend, with two teams of five shooting in both the standing and prone positions.

"We'll know by the end of February or early March if we scored high enough to advance to the next round in Gimli, Man."