The NEOC Board awarded five junior and national OUSA team members with travel stipends: Bridget Hall, Keegan Harkavy, Mori Finlayson-Johnecheck, Anna Campbell, and Izzy Bryant. Read on to learn more about each recipient, their orienteering adventures, and how they balance training with the rest of their activities.
1. Please provide some background into your orienteering experience.
- Bridget: I am lucky enough to have grown up orienteering: both of my parents do it, so it’s always been a part of my life. 2018 was the year that I decided to take it more seriously, however, and that is when I joined the Junior Development Team. From there I was on the Junior National Team from 2019 through last year, and this year I have made the transition to the Senior National Team! I have done a significant amount of international travel in past years, including the 2019 JWOC in Denmark, and JWOC last year in Portugal (both the summer sprint races and the extra fall forest races that were added due to summer forest fires).
- Keegan: In sixth grade Barb Bryant, through Navigation Games, came into my middle school and taught a six-week introduction to orienteering class. The class was fun and engaging and before I knew it I had fallen in love with the sport. Pretty soon I was traveling to meets all over New England and the country, dreaming of representing the US at international meets. And very slowly, over years of practice and dedication, I made this goal a reality. In 2018 and 2019 I represented the US as an alternate on the JWOC team and in EYOC. Due to COVID, I took a hiatus from orienteering internationally in 2020 and 2021. In 2022 however, I competed at both JWOC and WUOC and finished as the top American in many races including the JWOC sprint and the WUOC middle and long. In 2023 I returned once again to JWOC and achieved some of my proudest results, finishing as the top male American in every race and ending the first leg of the forest relay with the top pack in 9th place. At NAOC this summer I also had some impressive results, finishing in the top 6 for every race and debatably finishing 3rd overall among Americans. According to world rankings, I am currently the 6th best American for forest races and 596 in the world and the 3rd best sprint orienteer and 252nd in the world.
- Mori: I've been orienteering since I was born, apparently being carried around on my parents' courses until I was old enough to do String-Os and white courses independently. I'm unsure when I first signed up as a NEOC member, but it was probably close to 10 years ago. In that past decade, I have orienteered primarily in New England, going to UNO, NEOC and CSU events but I have also ventured as far as Wyoming and Scotland to compete. This year I was named to the US Junior National Team and selected for Junior World Orienteering Championships (JWOC) in Romania.
- Anna: I've been orienteering for longer than I can remember. I've been an actual NEOC member for the past 5 yrs, but it's possible that I may have been taken to some NEOC meets earlier, as I was born in Massachusetts. My greatest orienteering achievements include: acquiring a black rat snake of comparable height to myself while pulling controls for QOC, mapping theTremont School in Concord, and getting to be part of the US Junior Team.
- Izzy: I started orienteering before I can even remember! From a very young age my parents started taking my brother and me to local orienteering events. Once I reached high school, I was encouraged by members of the national O community to try out for the 2012 JWOC team, and I made it! That summer was a turning point in my orienteering career. I fell in love with the sport, was in awe of the competitive atmosphere in Europe, and developed close friendships with my teammates and others in the orienteering community. I went on to compete at JWOC five more times. I also had the privilege of representing the US at the 2016 WUOC in Hungary. I trained with a group of very talented orienteers in France for four months during my gap year, and when I studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh. This sport has allowed me to travel the world, but I feel most at home in the beautiful forests of New England!
2. Where have you traveled for orienteering this summer? What events did you attend?
- Bridget: This summer was mainly a summer for career/school-based work for me, which meant heading out to British Columbia for some field experience in glaciology! I was sad to have to turn down my WOC spot, but after a lot of travel last summer for orienteering, I made the decision to have a summer of work to balance that out. Since the end of my summer work, I have been able to go back up into Canada for the Ottawa O-fest and Canadian Champs weeklong event, and it felt great to be back in the woods again. It was also a lot of fun to see so many other NEOC members make the trip!
- Keegan: Thanks to NEOC’s generosity and studying abroad this spring I had the opportunity to attend and compete in a host of amazing orienteering events this summer. My travels took me from the highlands of Scotland to the flats of Finland to the outskirts of Stockholm, to the mountains of Baia Mare Romania, and finally to the forests of Tahoe. Along the way, I competed in the Scottish champs, Jukola, JWOC, and NAOC, as well as many smaller events.
- Mori: In early July, I went to my first JWOC. We did a week of training to get used to the timezone and terrain before competing the following week. The races started with two sprints (individual and relay) which were quite difficult for me given my lack of urban sprint experience. The forest races went much better for me, and the woods were very nice and open. In the middle race, I was able to stick with a Norwegian for a few controls, which helped push my pace. I was still near the back of placement in both the middle and long, but this year gives me a base to build on with three potential JWOCs to come. The forest relay was the fifth and final event. I had the opportunity to run with some of the fastest athletes after my teammate and club-mate, Keegan Harkavy, tagged off to me just 9 seconds behind the leader. While I didn't do quite as well as him, I managed to be in the top 100 runners (of ~155) on the course. Overall the experience was a great start to my international orienteering competition career, and I am very grateful to have been able to go. In addition to JWOC, I got to go to the Ottawa O-Fest later this summer which was a nice chance to get to know and compete with some Canadian juniors in my age class. I was particularly pleased with my middle run, where I was only six and a half minutes off the M21E winner.
- Anna: My summer orienteering trips included: EYOC Tour in Bulgaria, where I had a satisfyingly clean forest race, but the hills ate me alive. In training, I also got to see a gorgeous European green lizard thanks to Alex's sharp eyes. JWOC, where my forest races left plenty of room for improvement both navigationally and physically, but allowed me to see that I've come a long way from Portugal the year before.(I wasn't on the inverse podium for my forest races!). During training I saw lots of thumbnail sized frogs! California Orientering Festival/NAOC: Overall, my races were fairly consistent, though at this point I was too physically exhausted to race my best. While my NAOC performances were decent, the close competition definitely made every little mistake more painful, as did my Mom once again finding a rubber boa without me during the 24 hour rogaine. At least I got to see some fence lizards. A Tuscon Street O where I saw a horned lizard, but as I'm less well adapted to desert heat, I didn't try running too hard. My conclusions: I need to work on my heat tolerance and hill climbing
- Izzy: This summer I traveled to Flims-Laax Switzerland to compete at the World Orienteering Championships.I was happily surprised to make the team after a few years away from the national squad. As it was my first time competing at the senior level internationally, my main focus was on controlling my nerves and navigating cleanly. I’m happy with my performance in the Middle and Relay, and I look forward to setting more competitive goals in future years. Immediately after WOC, I made the long journey to California for NAOC. The highlight of that competition for me was winning the middle distance race!
3. What are you up to in your non-orienteering lives? How do you balance orienteering training and racing with your other commitments?
- Keegan: Haha, for the last 6 months or so I would say I really haven't balanced my orienteering with my other commitments. Since I have been studying abroad in Edinburgh for the last half year I have been lucky enough to pretty much live orienteering and put my other commitments slightly on the back burner. As such most of my life has revolved around orienteering, namely how to train and race as much as humanly possible (and sometimes going past that limit resulting in some quite annoying overuse injuries). The most exciting thing happening outside of orienteering for me currently is that I am training for a marathon on August 27th. Which, while exciting, one could argue is just a more boring form of orienteering, so not sure it falls into my non-orienteering life. I do, however, start back at Harvard in the fall and will be trying to figure out how to do the whole balancing of school and orienteering when I get back. [Editor’s Note: Since originally writing this, Keegan completed his marathon in an impressive time of 2:57, congratulations!]
- Mori: I have less time to dedicate to orienteering this fall because I'll be training with my high school XC running team. Luckily, running is handy when orienteering, so it complements my navigation training. In addition to running, I cross-country ski in the winter and do some ski training with my team in the summer. Outside of sports, I'm going into my Junior year of high school, and I like to do some programming on the side. I also like to sing (but not do solos).
- Anna: What time I didn't spend orienteering this summer was used for outdoor adventures throughout the west, and dealing with the hassle of starting college.
- Izzy: Outside of orienteering, I have been kept busy at my new job working as a data analyst for a travel company. I’m also a proud mom to my cat, Minnie! It has been challenging to balance training and work commitments during the week, but having NEOC events to attend and trainings set by club members (huge shout-out to Nils) has been really helpful in keeping me motivated and orienteering regularly.
4. What fall orienteering events are you most excited about? (Bonus points if they are organized by NEOC.)
- Bridget: My orienteering will likely be quite limited as I head into my final cross country season of college, but I will be headed to the Corn Maze Champs (most important meet of the year 😉), UNO camping weekend, and should be going to the New England Champs as well!
- Keegan: I am most excited by far for the Corn Maze because it is always my number one event (even above JWOC) for the year. A close second however, would have to be New England champs.
- Mori: This fall, I'm looking forward to attending the Pawtuckaway camping weekend hosted by UNO and the New England Orienteering Championships. I expect both to be great events, and I'm excited to see other club members there!
- Anna: Laramie Daze, a childhood favorite of mine for both the orienteering and the reptiles.
- Izzy: I am excited for Pawtuckaway, it’s one of my favorite events because I have so many fond memories of going as a kid with my family. I’m also really looking forward to the New England Champs and am proud to be part of a club hosting an NRE this year! From all five of us, thank you for your support and encouragement. See you in the woods!