Hay River track and field cancelled for fourth straight year

The wildfire burning outside Hay River means the territorial track and field championship ordinarily held in the community has been scrapped for a fourth consecutive year.

The event fell prey to last year’s flooding and was cancelled by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Organizers announced online this week that the 2023 edition will also not go ahead.

“It is with deep regret that we are officially cancelling,” organizers wrote.


“This was an extremely difficult decision to make and was not made lightly. Given the current situation and uncertainty that surrounds our communities, it is the right call.

“Our thoughts go out to the residents of Kátł’odeeche and Hay River. We thank those who are working hard to fight this fire and everyone who has generously supported evacuees.”

The Hay River-KFN wildfire triggered an evacuation of both communities on Sunday. As of Thursday night, the situation was understood to be worsening, with Hay River at “rising risk” according to the territorial government.

The annual track and field championship, normally referred to simply as “track and field” by its participants, is a highlight of the NWT’s sports calendar that offers the opportunity for youth from across the territory to meet up.

Only last week, prior to the wildfire breaking out, volunteer coordinator Dian Papineau-Magill had described the excitement in Hay River at the thought of track and field returning after three years.


“We see kids coming down from the farthest reaches of the North. We have them coming from Yellowknife and all of the small communities. Sometimes, for these kids, it’s the only outing they’re going to have all year,” Papineau-Magill said at the time.

“It’s big that way, and it’s also a big boon for the town, because you put 800 to 1,000 athletes and their coaches into a town this size, and that’s going to boost the economy a little bit.”

The South Slave Divisional Education Council said the decision to cancel was the right one, despite the associated heartbreak at missing out on track and field for a fourth year.

“We understand the disappointment this news may bring to our talented athletes and dedicated supporters,” the education council wrote.


“However, the safety and well-being of our participants, volunteers, and the community as a whole are of utmost importance.

“We appreciate your understanding and support during these challenging times. Let’s support each other and emerge stronger.”