Track and field leads Indigenous youth down new path

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Track and field leads Indigenous youth down new path

Track and field gives Taryn McKenzie much more than a chance to earn a medal and represent her community. It has taught the 17-year-old to never give up on herself.

McKenzie was one of 423 athletes competing at the 9th annual Saskatchewan Aboriginal Track and Field Competition in Saskatoon this weekend.

The La Ronge teen is one of the only athletes her age from the community who takes part in track and field events like this. But she knows that her involvement has encouraged others to try it out.

McKenzie's community is one of several in northern Saskatchewan that has lost youth to suicide over the past several months. She said a lot of young people have found that sports like volleyball and basketball can help them deal with the stress and adversity they may be facing.

"You can tell when somebody's struggling. And I feel like, for me, sports helps when I struggle so if I try to kind of push it onto them, I feel like maybe it will do the same for them."

Mikey Marty Jr. travelled to Saskatoon from Frog Lake, Alta., as part of a group of about two dozen athletes.

The 15-year-old said he finds that being involved in sports gives him something to focus on.

"Right now, I'm like addicted to track and field and I'm addicted to hockey. So that's why I'm not into the drugs and the alcohol."

Derek Rope, one of the organizers of the event, pointed out that thanks to the success of the competition, athletes like McKenzie and Marty are also becoming leaders in their communities.

"I think by coming and participating, you're actually showing a desire that you're ready to invest in yourself."