A True Underdog Story
|Simon Alaittuq School|
Sunday, April 27th was the last day of the skills competition. After breakfast, everyone cleaned their rooms and packed their bags. The cadets then changed into their physical training (PT) gear and were driven to Simon Alaittuq School for the volleyball tournament. The Commanding Officer (CO) of 3055 would referee all the games. No one had an issue with this because he was more experienced in running sports tournaments, especially with an odd number of teams. There would be five rounds. Rounds 1 to 3 were played in a round robin style; each team would face their opponents twice. Each round was played to the best of three games. Rounds 4 & 5 were the semi-final and final games. To win a game, a team would have to attain 15 points with a two point lead.
The first round was played between Arctic Bay & Repulse Bay. As the cadets served, received, passed, and spiked the ball back and forth, I stood on the sidelines taking pictures. The Rankin Inlet cadets cheered for both teams. Unfortunately, both games did not go well for my cadets and they lost by several points.
Repulse Bay advanced to the Second Round, facing off against Rankin Inlet. I instructed my cadets to study the plays of the other two teams; maybe there were weaknesses to exploit and strengths to avoid? After many close calls, Rankin Inlet came out on top, winning both games just by a few points. Judging from the first two rounds, I concluded that 3019 Rankin Inlet was the strongest team.
|Rankin Inlet vs. Repulse Bay|
Arctic Bay returned to the court for Round 3, going up against Rankin Inlet. I was right in my previous assessment of 3019 because they gave 3045 "a beating". The ball just didn't go ARB's way and we lost both games by large margins. The points we scored just weren't enough. At the end of the round robin, Arctic Bay was in last place, Repulse Bay was in second, and Rankin Inlet was in first.
|Cadets of 3045 & 3055 Army.|
|Cadet Reid, J. of 3045 Army|
A short break was called to give cadets a few minutes to go to the washroom and drink some water. It was obvious that my cadets look dejected after losing four games straight. Now we were faced with elimination in the next round. They had been practicing a lot back home but something wasn't working. I wished I had watched more sports movies to be able to give one of those awe-inspiring speeches when the team is in trouble. Before I could pinpoint the cause, the referee blew his whistle to signal the start of Round 4 - Arctic Bay vs. Repulse Bay. The winner would face Rankin Inlet in the final. Setting my camera aside, I stopped my team captain and spoke just loud enough so the rest of the team could hear me. "This is it. We lose, we go home." After a short pause, I added, "Now show them how we play in Arctic Bay."
|Rankin Inlet vs. Repulse Bay|
|Cadet Olayuk, J. of 3045 Army|
This time, I paid more attention to the game and gave more advice to my players. I assumed the first game would be close, in terms of scoring, because both teams were "fighting for their lives". I assumed correctly because Arctic Bay won the first game just by a two-point lead. My cadets no longer felt dejected; they were now feeling like they had a chance. "Just one more game," I reminded them, "and we're in the final." The second game went a lot better; their coordination and passing had improved and they won the second game with a five-point lead. Their frowns were now upside down. 3045 Arctic Bay was advancing to the finals. I think we're in for an upset, I thought.
The faces of the Rankin Inlet team were of confidence but also concern. Arctic Bay was clawing its way back to the top. The team that lost its first four games would be facing off against the team that won its first four games. Both ends of the spectrum, vying for first place. I think the faces on my cadets read, "Guess who's back for more."
|Arctic Bay vs. Repulse Bay in the Semi-Final.|
The first game of Round 5 began.
|Cadet Qaunaq, R. of 3045 Arctic Bay.|
The game was fast, tense, and loud. Several rallies lasted for nearly a minute and the audience was cheering for both teams. It wasn't until the later half of the game that Arctic Bay got a solid lead and won 15 to 9. The mood among 3045 was the complete opposite of what it was before. Their morale was riding high as they were now just one game away from claiming first place. I did my best to contain my excitement. "Just one more game," I told them. "Just one more game, and we take home the gold."
|Cadet Lavallee, C. of 3045|
The second game was the same as the first: fast, tense, and loud. I paced back and forth along the sidelines, watching my cadets serve and receive the ball. I wanted to jump in and help them bring home the gold but that would have led to a disqualification. Either through hard teamwork and/or overconfidence from Rankin Inlet, my cadets got a solid lead in the second half of the game and managed to win again, 15 to 9. We were ecstatic while everyone else was stunned. The underdogs had started from the bottom but were now here, in first place. "Good work," I said, while slapping high fives. "Good work indeed." After 3045 shook hands with 3019, all three teams gathered on the court for a group photo.
|3045, 3055, & 3019 Army Cadet Corps.|
|The other Welcome Sign at the PAB.|
Everyone returned to the PAB to finish packing their belongings and cleaning the rooms & washrooms. Duffel bags, suitcases, and air rifles were brought down to the first floor and organized into neat piles. We made sure to leave no trace of garbage behind. When the cleaning was done, everyone assembled in the mess hall to hear the final verdict on who won the skills competition. So far, the only assured fact was that 3045 Arctic Bay won the volleyball tournament. Before announcing the winner, the officer-in-charge asked the cadets if they had fun. The answer was a resounding yes. When asked if they would attend a skills competition next year, if one were held, everyone again answered yes. He assured the cadets that he would relay those answers to his superiors so that such events in the north would continue.
|Medical Inspection Room (MIR) at|
The Department of National Defence has been facing budget cuts for the last few months because the federal government has been trying to curb deficit spending. All government departments are not immune to the cuts. The cadet program is usually the first on the list to receive them. As a result, programs and events, such as skills competitions, are cancelled and/or postponed indefinitely.
|Rankin Inlet Inukshuk|
The officer-in-charge continued by announcing the individual winners of the 4 events. 3019 Rankin Inlet won the Marksmanship event; it was pretty obvious from the start because they had hometown advantage. They also won the Drill event. I was surprised to hear that 3045 Arctic Bay won the Leadership Tasking. Since we won volleyball, that meant we were tied with Rankin Inlet. Because there was a tie, the officer-in-charge had to look at the point system more closely, and it turned out that just on points, Arctic Bay had just a few more than Rankin Inlet. My skills team had won the competition. They reacted with whistles and cheers. Looks like we'll be bringing back some really good news, I thought.
After the debriefing, it was time for 3055 & 3045 to head to the airport to catch their chartered flight home. Final goodbyes were exchanged with the cadets & adult staff of 3019 before the trucks were loaded with everyone's belongings. The drive to the airport terminal was very short because the PAB sits just on the other side of the runway. As the cadets were unloading the trucks, I noticed the wind was not as strong as it was in the morning. That was a good sign because I did not want to get stranded. Once everything was checked in, both teams waited for an hour until all the other flights left. When we were called to board, I said my final goodbyes to the officer-in-charge.
|Rankin Inlet Airport Terminal|
The flight to Repulse Bay was uneventful. Most of the cadets were tired from the competition and slept. When the plane landed, everyone had to disembark so that the aircraft could be refueled, restocked, and cleaned. My cadets said their final goodbyes to the cadets of 3055 before boarding. I was the last one to board; I did not want to leave anyone behind. The final three-hour flight home passed in a blur. When we landed in Arctic Bay, there was a crowd waiting for us in the terminal. We all shared the good news. The parents were overjoyed and the Commanding Officer was surprised.
"I didn't think it would go that well for you," he commented.
"Neither did I," I added.
Overall, the 2014 Rankin Inlet Skills Competition was a lot of fun. My team came together and succeeded in achieving first place. The event gave me the opportunity to travel to the Nunavut mainland and visit other northern communities. I hope there will be a skills competition next year: 3045 now has a title to defend.
End of Rankin Inlet Skills Competition Mini-Series