Community Clubs

Orienteering fest brings competitors from near and far to Ottawa

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By Dan Plouffe, published Oct. 13 in Ottawa This Week

Jeff Teutsch of the Ottawa Orienteering Club finishes strong in the middle distance race en route to a second-place finish in the combined standings for the three events. Photo: Andrew Cornett.

There may not have been anyone more thankful for the warm weather and sunny skies on Thanksgiving weekend than the organizers of the Ottawa Orienteering Festival, who staged the Ontario championships in the west end of Ottawa from Oct. 8-10.

“The weekend was fabulous,” raves Ottawa Orienteering Club president Randy Kemp. “When you have weather like this, all you need to do is show up to pull off a good event.”

Around 170 athletes competed in classes ranging from 12-and-under to 75-and-over, bringing in orienteers from near and far. Participants from clubs in the Golden Horseshoe, Kitchener-Waterloo, New Brunswick, and Western Canada regions attended, while several others from the U.S. and Europe also made the trip.

Kemp credits good organization, the area’s fall colours, and the Carp Ridge course – which received recognition from the international orienteering federation for a world-class leg – as reasons why many traveled so far for the event.

“(Carp Ridge) is very, very popular with the orienteers primarily because it’s just so technical, open, and interesting,” explains Kemp, highlighting that the sprint competition in the Beaverbrook area of Kanata around Earl of March High School was also successful. “We were a little worried about that venue, but it came together.

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“There’s so much that goes into putting on an event like this, so when it comes together, it’s very exciting for the club.”

Several local orienteers distinguished themselves in the international field. Merivale Gardens resident Jeff Teutsch earned his best result in the long-distance event with a third-place finish en route to second overall in the combined standings for the sprint, middle and long competitions.

“It was my worst performance of the weekend, and yet it was my best result,” says the Carleton University aerospace engineering grad who was pleased to come away with his first medal at a major competition in the men’s elite category. “It’s super challenging terrain, so I guess the good news for me was that everyone was having trouble with it.”

Will Critchley of Edmonton was the Canadian Cup champion, winning the men’s elite sprint and middle competitions to take the nationwide series overall crown. Teutsch’s Ottawa Orienteering Club teammate Eric Kemp made a crucial error at one station in the long-distance race and was disqualified to spoil his second- and fourth-place results in the middle and sprint events.

Molly Kemp was the top Canadian in the elite women’s sprint event, finishing fifth behind a pair of U.S. competitors, one from Great Britain and another from Norway. The Grade 12 Nepean High School student also placed fifth in the middle and long competitions.

“Orienteering is a great way to meet people from around the world,” notes Molly Kemp, a 2011 junior world orienteering championships competitor who traveled to France, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Sweden this past summer. “When you go to Europe, you really realize how big it is over there. It’s a lot more competitive, and being in Europe all summer really motivated me to train hard this year.”

The Ottawa Orienteering Club’s two most successful athletes didn’t compete at the festival. Both Robbie Anderson, in Sweden, and Molly’s older sister Emily Kemp, in France, are studying overseas while training in more competitive environments. 

What’s involved in an orienteering race

Participants begin with just two tools – a compass and a detailed map of a given area, generally, in the wilderness, that shows controls (or flag checkpoints) that they must find throughout the course.

Using their compass to line up features on the ground with the path they choose to take along the way, it’s the competitors’ goal to make it through the course as fast as possible.

There are usually three events during high-level competitions – a sprint distance that covers under 3 km (less for different age levels), a middle (around 5 km), and a long (10 km), which could take top athletes in the neighbourhood of an hour-and-a-half to complete.

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