2018-09-19

The family that orienteers together….

by Charles Mandel

The Halls are the family least likely to get lost in the woods.

The Mahone Bay family recently returned from the North American Orienteering Championships in Whitehorse, Yukon, where Kara Turner's (she goes by her maiden name) three children and her husband all reached the podium in their respective categories.

The six days of competition also included the Canadian Orienteering Championships.

Turner said her children all attended the Canadian Orienteering Junior Training Camp ahead of the event "and are destined for great things in the future of Canadian orienteering."

To be sure, that doesn't sound like just a proud mom talking.

During her performance in the Yukon, 10-year-old Evie Hall won every race she entered, and is now the North American and Canadian champion in the sprint, middle and long distance events.

She's been nominated for a Sport Nova Scotia Athlete of the Month award for the five gold medals she scooped up.

Her younger brother, Milo, at age eight was competing for the first time by himself. He now has the distinction of being the Canadian champion in the sprint and middle distances, and the North American champion in the sprint distance.

Evie and Milo's sister, Lily, also competed. The 14-year-old won four silver medals and a bronze.

Not to be outdone, Turner's husband, Matt, won silver in the Canadian championship sprint event in the Masters-45 age category.

They were part of an 11 member contingent from Nova Scotia who took the trip north to compete. The Halls belong to the South Shore Orienteers club.

For those not familiar with the sport, orienteering involves running through the woods with map reading.

Competitors find their way around a pre-marked course while looking for checkpoints. The fastest time with the most checkpoints wins. Different courses are offered for each age group.

"No two courses are ever the same and every time you head out on a course, you hope today will be the day you make zero map-reading errors," Turner told LighthouseNOW.

The maps for the sport are specially produced and are finely detailed maps where every detail, right down to individual boulders, is mapped.

Turner says while running through the forest or along a path at speed is important, the real challenge is finding the checkpoints out on the course in the right order without making route choice or navigation mistakes.

"It's this brain challenge that really interests me," Turner said.

The Yukon competition attracted 550 competitors from 22 countries. It was the first time the event had been held north of 60 degrees.

Turner's son, Milo, was the youngest competitor in the Yukon. At the same time, there was a man in his '90s running. "It is truly a sport for all ages," Turner said.

The competitions included sprint, middle distance, long distance and relay races. The kids' courses took around 20 minutes to complete, while the adults were out for up to two hours.

The Yukon competition was also the largest the Hall children had competed in to date. "It was an eye-opener for them," Turner noted.

She said the first couple of days presented a challenge for Milo. "But by day three he'd gained confidence and was unstoppable."

Turner said the other two kids are more experienced map readers and enjoyed the experience of running in a larger race with bib numbers, electronic timing devices, and a large finish area with plenty of people to cheer them on.

"Because they are young, the weren't achy like their parents were by the end of the six days of competition and were keen to do more," Turner laughed.

A long-time competitor, Turner introduced the rest of her family to the sport.

She began orienteering when she was about eight years old in the U.K., where her father was a big fan of the sport. As a teenager she went orienteering every weekend.

When she met her husband, Turner introduced him to the sport as well. Their children have been racing for about three years now.

So what do you do after your family has won all the medals? Defend them, of course.

Said Turner: "The next Canadian Championships are in southern Ontario so we'll be heading there next summer."

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