Haliburton cadets take aim at new sport
By Darren Lum
Published March 7, 2017
The cadets of 1129 Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps -Haliburton are still excited about their unique relay biathlon experience from Jan. 21 to 22 at the Eastern Ontario Biathlon Competition held at Camp Fortune, Gatineau, Que.
For the first time, the cadets of Haliburton took to the trails, skiing up to 10 kilometres, and then over the course took two opportunities at a range to aim their .22 rifles to shoot five targets 50 metres away (on two separate occasions) in the sport of biathlon – an event that combines the cardiovascular test of Nordic skiing with the intense focus of marksmanship. For this event, the rifles were not carried and were only at the range.
Sixteen-year-old Tricia Powell, who has been with the cadets since she joined at 12, enjoys and excels in marksmanship. An “occasional” Nordic skier, she welcomed the challenge of combining shooting with skiing to compete in the open mixed (12-18) with an assigned relay partner in Quebec.
“I’m not a bad skier and I thought it would be fun to watch my cadets ski and hopefully pick it up for myself,” she said.
Powell has been shooting since she started with the cadets and shot perfectly through two rounds for a mark of 10 for 10. Had she missed, she would have had to ski a penalty lap.
She savoured the opportunity to compete against other cadets, who might have been better shooters or just physically stronger than her in the event. Despite the long odds of a result-based success, she was very proud of her resilience to overcome the urge to quit during the race.
In hindsight, being able to push through and finish provided her great satisfaction. She’s even looking forward to competing next year.
“I would do it again. It was actually quite enjoyable,” she said.
The cadets commanding officer Dan Collings, an OPP sergeant and marksmanship trainer, said offering biathlon is about giving opportunities for youth between 12 and 18 to develop physically and mentally. He adds the cadets is all about testing personal limits, offering outdoor activities, encouraging fitness and a healthy life. Team building is also part of the experience of the cadets.
Even the fitness program offered with cadets isn’t just about physical training. It includes team building, leadership, promotes friendly competition and fun.
Cadet Powell appreciates the experiences the cadets can give her and believes it has provided her opportunities such as learning about the natural world and how to survive in the outdoors. For the outdoors lover, the cadet corps is perfect for that kind of person, she said. They meet every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Haliburton Legion during the school year.
The other cadets that competed were Kennedy McCracken, 13, and Jakob Bull, 14, who competed in the junior male team competition.
“We’ve got renewed interest. It’s a really positive stimulus for our cadets that want to participate in biathlon. It’s something more for them to do,” Collings said. “We felt we didn’t have enough interesting active stuff for them to do.”
Although he appreciates the marksmanship program like his cadets, he believes biathlon adds another dimension. Collings said biathlon is a unique sport that tests not only the physical attributes, but rewards individuals for their focus and attitude. The sentiment of just doing your best is high on mind for Collings. He said biathlon is part of an offering to interest more children and youth to join.
Choosing OPP constable Stu Humphries as the coach for Haliburton made sense because of his long-time involvement in Nordic skiing with his own family for recreation.
Since last year the Highlands cadet corps (due to its size) joined the 2672 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps of Peterborough. This enabled the cadets here to receive help in the form of coaching and time at the Peterborough Revolver and Pistol Club through the much larger cadet corps, as it had been involved with biathlon for a few years. Humphries initiated communication with the Peterborough biathlete coach for help and also co-ordinated to have his cadets go down to Peterborough to receive hands-on training over the course of a few weekends with the .22 calibre rifles.
The cadets didn’t have to pay for the preparation or the experience of competition thanks to the support from organizations: the Peterborough Army Cadets, the Haliburton Highlands Nordic Ski Association, the Royal Canadian Legions of Minden, Haliburton and Cardiff. Haliburton residents Kit and Len Pizzey donated skis. Additional support has since come from Cintas of Lindsay, who has five donated shooting pads.
Collings said biathlon helps to keep cadets interested in staying with the corps and draws new members like the top placing team, the junior male (12-15) team of Aiden Hill and Corvin Gervais, who only joined a week before regional competition.
Although they placed a very good fourth place in a field of at least 26 other teams, they will not advance to the provincials.
Gervais said he didn’t shoot as well as he would have liked, but their strong Nordic skiing was the difference. Twelve-year-old Gervais has been Nordic skiing for close to seven years, but had never shot a gun before this year and found it exciting. Although his shooting score wasn’t as good as he’d like it to be, he appreciated the novelty.
There was a challenge to shooting while skiing in the competition.
“You had to stop and slow down,” he said.
He adds it’s a practice he knows he can use in other areas of his life such as concentrating.
The strong placing came as a pleasant and satisfying surprise.
“It was impressive to us because we’ve never done anything [like this before]. He [had] shot [only] once in his life. Aiden and I have known each other for a long time and he started skiing when had and that was really fun,” he said.
Hill agreed with this friend about the experience.
“I was surprised that I won fourth out of what I believe was 50 other cadets. Not only did I place well for a first timer, but I also had a great time in Quebec. It was a unique opportunity to visit another province and I hope to go back in the near future. Overall a great and fun experience,” Hill said.
Word of mouth was integral for them to join the cadets only a week before the competition. The two had been intrigued by a visit from a cadet representative, but the biathlon “pushed it over the edge” for them, Gervais said.
He has thoroughly enjoyed his experience with the cadets so far and was excited for more opportunities such as winter camping this past weekend. Gervais encourages other youth to join the cadets.
“It’s a lot of fun. You meet a lot of new people,” he said.