Shandon Thomas placed 10th in the 6-kilometre race for runners under 19 years old on Monday at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto. His next race is 3,000 metres on Wednesday. (Marla Jack-Kaloucokovale photo)
Shandon Thomas is still hoping to capture some hardware at this year’s North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).
The 16-year-old Ahousaht First Nation runner kicked off his hectic schedule at the multi-sport competition on Monday by participating in the boys’ under-19 six-kilometre cross-country running event.
Thomas, who will compete in a total of five NAIG races, placed 10th in his first event, clocking in with a time of 27 minutes and five seconds. He said it was difficult to assess his time in this race as he usually competes in 5K distances and not events that feature the extra kilometre.
This year’s NAIG, which has attracted about 5,000 athletes and coaches from across Canada and the United States, are being held in Toronto and surrounding communities.
Monday’s cross-country races were staged at the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto, located in the east end of the city.
Thomas was content with his placing in the cross-country race.
“Yeah, I’m satisfied,” he said of his efforts.
Besides dealing with the heat, Thomas also had to battle through another obstacle in his event. There was a stretch of about 100 metres on the three-kilometre loop course that featured concrete.
This created a less-than-ideal situation for Thomas, who was running with spiked shoes.
“They all had (trail) shoes for that,” he said of his competitors. “I didn’t have any other shoes to wear.”
The concrete portion of the course was not a total surprise for Thomas.
“Before our race we went and we walked the whole course,” he said.
Thomas also didn’t have the ideal sleep the night before his race.
That’s because he attended the Games’ opening ceremonies on Sunday night. Even though he left about a half hour before the ceremony concluded, he returned to his room around 11 p.m. But it still took him a couple of more hours before he fell asleep.
“And then we woke up at 6 a.m.,” Thomas said, adding he was required to catch a bus an hour later to take him to the cross-country event.
Thomas said he was fighting some nerves both before and in the early portions of his race.
“After a little while, maybe halfway through the first lap I got comfortable,” said Thomas, who will begin his Grade 12 studies at Maaqtusiis Secondary School in Ahoushat this September.
Thomas is one of the 419 athletes representing Team BC at this year’s NAIG. And he’s one of about 20 Nuu-chah-nulth athletes that are participating.
Thomas will compete in four other events at the NAIG, including his 3,000-metre race on Wednesday. He will also take part in a 4x400-metre relay on Wednesday night. On Thursday he’ll participate in his 1,500-metre race. And he’ll wrap things up by taking part in his 800-metre race on Friday.
He’s hoping to garner some hardware in upcoming races.
“Probably the 1,500-metres or the 3,000-metres,” Thomas said of what he believes will be his best chances to win some medals.
Besides athletics, which included Monday’s cross-country races, the NAIG will feature 13 other sports. They are archery, badminton, baseball, basketball, canoeing/kayaking, golf, lacrosse, rifle shooting, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball and wrestling.
The Games will continue until Saturday. The closing ceremonies will also be staged on Saturday.
This marks the ninth time that the NAIG, featuring athletes aged 13-19, are being held.
The inaugural Games were held in 1990 in Edmonton. The NAIG have been held sporadically over the years, sometimes with as little as two years and as many as six years between Games.
This is the seventh time in Games’ history that they are being held in Canada. But this is the first time the Games are in eastern Canada.