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Nearly 200 racers compete in weekend of races at the 2022 Snowmobile Challenge

BY Ben Powless Mar 29, 2022

Ouje-Bougoumou hosted the 2022 Snowmobile Challenge March 5-6, attracting over 175 racers and hundreds more onlookers for the annual race. 

In the Professional category, Jayden Shecapio-Blacksmith (Ouje-Bougoumou) took first place with a time of 4:55:31 on the 310km track, picking up the grand prize of $6,000. He was followed by Silas Neeposh (Mistissini) at 4:56:46 and Sylvain Menard (Chibougamau) at 5:06:58.

Shecapio-Blacksmith said he felt “very good” about winning the race. “It was an unexplainable feeling, an unbelievable feeling. It was emotional. I went home and relaxed, it took a while for it to sink in.”

Then he added, “Everyone was proud of me. The whole community was there for me, supporting me.”

Shecapio-Blacksmith got his racing start in 2017, first in the Beginner’s category and taking home a second-place win. He followed that impressive start by racing in Chisasibi in the Semi-Pro category, also taking second place.

This recent race wasn’t without its issues – Shecapio-Blacksmith said he hit a stump and wiped out twice. “It took a while to recover. I was tired and I had a hard time flipping my skidoo back on track and I lost time,” he said after narrowly winning the race by just over a minute. 

Between races, he plays hockey and gets exercise skating. He also likes to take time in the bush to relax and get in a good state of mind. He always says a prayer for the safety of all the competitors and himself before a race. 

He advises those thinking of racing to be in shape, and to race smart. His mentor, who passed away in 2018, would tell him to “race with your mind, not with your thumb – your throttle,” Shecapio-Blacksmith said.

“He told me that it’s not about being crazy fast, it’s about being smart. But we all make mistakes, that’s how we learn,” he added. 

After winning in Ouje-Bougoumou, Shecapio-Blacksmith’s sights are set on upcoming races in Mistissini, Waswanipi and Chisasibi, before the season ends for the year. 

“There are always people who want to see me race and I’m thankful to have that kind of support from family and friends. I wouldn’t be racing if it wasn’t for them, so I thank them a lot.” 

Then he added, “I just want people to believe in themselves and chase their dreams. Anything is possible – if you work for it.”

Results in other categories:

In the Women’s category, first place was won by Sarah Neeposh (Mistissini), who finished the 120km race in 2:29:36, winning a $2,500 prize. She was followed by Waapikun Coonishish (Mistissini) at 2:43:53, and Jewel Neeposh (Mistissini) at 2:44:52. 

The Semi-Pro category was won by Kent Careen (Labrador City), who achieved a time of 4:29:51 on the 248km route. He was followed by Victor Coonishish (Mistissini) at 4:50:09, and then by Emile Paquet (Chibougamau) at 4:50:38.

In the Amateur category, Terrance Mattawashish (Mistissini) came first in the 120km race with a time of 2:00:03, followed by Tyler Bush (Ouje-Bougoumou) at 2:02:39, and Dawson Petawabano (Mistissini) at 2:05:18.

The Junior Boy’s category was won by Morgan Mianscum (Ouje-Bougoumou) with a time of 1:06:17. He was followed by Tayshawn Shecapio (Mistissini) at 1:13:07, and then by Lennox Coonishish (Mistissini) at 1:13:07.

The Junior Girls’ category was won by Sarah Neeposh (Mistissini) with a time of 1:25:16. She was followed by Brooklyn Careen (Labrador City) at 1:30:44, then by Brianna Coonishish (Ouje-Bougoumou) at 1:32:50.

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.