LAKELAND - Young, Indigenous athletes from across the Lakeland earned medals and experience over the last week, competing at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Nova Scotia from July 15-23.
Since first beginning in 1990, it was the tenth edition of the games, highlighting the athletic skills of Indigenous athletes between the ages of 13 and 19 in 16 different sports This year, a contingent of more than 20 young athletes from Lakeland communities competed under the Team Alberta banner, bringing home a combined tally of eight medals, including one gold-place finish.
Lac La Biche's Aryka Bouvier and Cold Lake's Layla Morning Song Large were part of Team Alberta U19 female soccer squad that won gold. Going into the championship game on Saturday, the team had won four straight game in the playdowns, allowing only one goal scored against them. They beat Team Ontario 5-1 to win NAIG gold. Bouvier and Morning Song-Large's teammate Medea Jane Chiba scored a hat-trick in the championship game.
Also scoring a hat-trick of sorts on the weekend was Cold Lake track athlete Broden Paul, winning three silver medal in three individual event. The 13-year-old earned silver in the U14 men's 90 metre sprint, with a time of 10:46 seconds, just a quarter second behind the Team Manitoba winner. His second silver medal was in the U14 men's 150 metre run, where his 19:47 second clocking was just a half a second back of the first place finisher. Paul's third silver was in U14 men's shotput, with a throw of 36.6 feet.
The Cold Lake teen also competed in the U16 male 4X100 relay with Team Alberta teammates from Edmonton and Hinton. The boys finished in fifth place overall, off the podium by three seconds in a very tight race. Paul and the same Team Alberta crew also raced in the U16 men's 4X400. Their time of three minutes-49.56 seconds was 20 seconds behind the gold-place finish of a team from New Mexico.
Another silver-medalist is Cold Lake U16 soccer player Dylan Hayden Dechaine. The 15-year-old and his Team Alberta squad lost 2-1 in the gold-medal game to Team BC.
Bronze medal NAIG athletes returning home this week include Bonnyville teen Gaston Ducharme on the men's Team Alberta U19 softball team. Lac La Biche's Katie Nashim and Bonnyville's Zoe MacLellan won bronze with the Team Alberta U19 women's volleyball team, and Cold Lake's Cash Seguin and Logan Scanie were on the U16 Team Alberta men's lacrosse team that also came home with bronze. Josh Berland from Lac La Biche and Reegan Lapatak from Kehewin with their Team Alberta U16 volleyball squad beat Team Ontario 3 games to 1 in the bronze medal match.
Other Lakeland athletes representing team Alberta at the games were:
Sunshine Lapatak, 14, from Saddle Lake Cree Nation: Team Alberta women's U16 softball team finished fifth overall,
Hayden Cardinal, 16 from Cold Lake: U16 female doubles badminton (with Selah Sweetgrass) Undefeated in round-robin, but were knocked out of playoffs in the semi-final round
Jaden Dechaine, 16, from Cold Lake. In his first year of rife shooting, the 16 year old finished the games in sixth place in both the prone and 3-point shooting categories.
Karson Matthew Conner, 14, from Bonyville: U16 male doubles badminton (with Jayden Yellowface) finished third in their group, but out of medal contention.
Noah Sanderson MacDonald, 16, from Kikino Metis Settlement Grey Sky Lameman, 16, from Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Ethan Walgren, 17, from Lac La Biche and Jarrik Berard, 16, from Heart Lake Cree Nation: Team Alberta U19 men's baseball - finished fifth overall
Andie Holden, 16, from Lac La Biche: Team Alberta women's U16 volleyball — finished outside the medal round after winning one game, ut losing three out of four games in 2-1 sets.
Avery Kuraitis, 18, from Lac La Biche and Berry Lynn Rosychuk, 17, from Goodfish Lake with Team Alberta U19 women's fastball. The team finished seventh overall with a Games record of two wins and two losses.
Michael Boucher, 18, from Lac La Biche and Aden Pierre Steinhauer, 18, from Saddle Lake. Their Team Alberta men's U19 soccer team lost their two opening games, but beat TEAM Northwest Territories 8-0 in their final game to earn fifth place overall.
Matthew Cardinal, 16, from Saddle Lake Cree Nation. The 6'2 teen was on the Team Alberta men's U16 basketball team that lost three very close games — only an 18-point win-loss differerence over all three games — in round-robin play, keeping them out of the medals.
Gabriel Alook, 15, from Wasbasca competed in U19 men's beach volleyball with a Calgary-based partner. The two finished out of the the medal rounds with a record of one win and two losses.
Two dozen teams sent more than 750 athletes to the games from as far away as Colorado and New Mexico and every Canadian province.
The team Alberta Athletes finished the games in fourth-place overall, with 81 combined medals, with 28 gold, 27 silver and 28 bronze. Team Saskatchewan finished the events in top spot with 175 medals overall, including 51 gold medals.