AWG Day 5: Biathlon, speed skating increase haul, hockey showdown looms

Biathletes and speed skaters in a race to be the top medal-earning team

Hay River's Kjel Crook struggles with his snow-filled sights during the 2.5-kilometre mass start snowshoe biathlon race at Grey Mountain on Thursday

Medals rained for Team NWT’s biathletes and speed skaters again in Whitehorse.

Speed skater Isaac Wideman earned another gold medal, this time in the 666-metre speed skating race. Rachel Latour won a silver and Kirianne Ashley and James Thomas both won broze, bringing the team’s total to 24.

The snowshoe and ski biathletes are nipping at the skaters’ heels with 22.

While the biathletes have been a mainstay for team NWT, until today they’d yet to bring home a gold medal.

Hay River’s Michaela Crook changed that, taking the win in the juvenile girls’ 2.5-kilometre mass start show shoe race despite very challenging shooting conditions and a possible target malfunction.

“It was pretty good. I could have done better shooting, though,” Crook said.

Crook missed four of five targets in her first lap through the range, but after her coach made some adjustments to her rifle sight she shot clean on her second round. Her third round resulted in five misses, however, but Crook said she wasn’t phased by the extra penalty laps.

“I just try to stay focused, and go faster around my laps,” Crook said.

Winning the gold gives Crook a full set of uluit.

“I won silver the first day, then bronze and now I’ve got a gold, so I can take home the whole collection."

Heavy snow caused the problem with her rifle sight, but there also may have been a technical issue with the target crook was shooting at, according to her coach Chuck Lirette.

“It was a tough day with the snow out here, that’s for sure,” Lirette said.

Lirette had been so busy dealing with the rifles for his eight athletes that at first he didn’t realize Crook had taken the gold.

“As coaches, we’re so busy in the range that it’s hard to follow what’s going on in the race. Today was especially difficult. We had a lot of problems with rifle sights getting clogged up with snow. We had to clear six of the eight sets of sights,” he said.

Lirette said on Crook’s third shoot there was an issue that went to the jury because her target wasn’t set properly.

“She didn’t know during the race, and I guess in the end it didn’t really matter cause she won anyway,” Lirette said.

Michaela wasn’t the only Crook to take home some hardware at the Grey Mountain venue. Kjel Crook claimed a silver in the 2.5-kilometre juvenile males’ race and a bronze in the mass start race. Angeline Magtibay, Taylen Drybones (of Fort Good Hope) and Destiny Robert (of Fort McPherson) also took home bronze medals in their mass start races.

In hockey action, the NWT midget boys gave their Nunavut rivals a proper thrashing in their semi-final match, beating them 6-2 Thursday night at the Canada Games Centre. It was a nice payback for the 6-4 defeat Nunavut handed them the day before.

“After last night’s loss to them, we knew we had to come out strong. We made some mistakes yesterday, but we’re glad it was yesterday and we’ve learned from them,” said NWT midget boys coach Brad Anstey.

“We definitely got off to a good start, and I think that was the key to the game. After we got up 4-0 in the first, they just couldn’t come back from it. We got into some penalty trouble in the 2nd but it was just too deep of a hole for them to get out of,” said Spencer Rivers, the game’s MVP.

Team NWT will face the hometown favourites, Team Yukon on home ice in the gold medal game on Saturday, but Rivers said the team isn’t worried.

“We are the team to beat, and we know it,” Rivers said. "We’ve proved it by beating them before and we’ll do it again on Saturday."