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Back from New Mexico

Dez Loreen
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 09, 2007

A group of Inuvik soccer players had their first taste of international play last week.

The players were in Albuquerque, New Mexico to compete in the Indigenous Soccer Cup.

NNSL photo

A group of Inuvik boys recently played in the 2007 Indigenous Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The under-14 team came in third place, while the under-16 boys team earned a gold medal for their performance. Back row, from left: Lance Gray, Cole Maring and Jordan Rogers, Front row, from left: James Day Jr., Scott Ross-Kuptana and Richard Alexie Jr. - Dez Loreen/NNSL photo

Yvonne Carpenter, one of the coaches on the trip, said the group performed well and enjoyed themselves.

The athletes left on July 25 and returned home on Aug. 6.

Yvonne said the group was hosted by the University of New Mexico.

"They had a great campus and their fields were excellent," said Carpenter.

It was her team of 19-and-under girls that earned a silver medal for their performance in the tournament.

"They were challenged with a high elevation of 5,000 feet, which was different for them," said Carpenter. "The temperature was always high, during the final game it was over 100 degrees (37 C)."

The under-16 boys team brought home a gold medal. The under-14 boys captured bronze.

"There were a lot of players from Inuvik on those teams," Carpenter said.

Lance Gray was awarded the most valuable player award for the under-16 boys division.

Scott Ross-Kuptana took the award for most sportsmanlike player in the boys under 14 category.

"Our teams worked hard for their accomplishments," Carpenter said.

"They were up every day at 6 a.m. and played long games."

The coach said that the most memorable time for her on the trip was during a traditional ceremony.

"It was one of the most cultural experiences that any one of us have had to date," she said.

"We weren't permitted to take photos, but we all have visual memories of that."

It was during the flight to Albuquerque that Carpenter pointed out that there was no water to be seen at all.

"I told the boys to look outside, now they can cherish all the land and water around us," she said.

Gray said the trip was fun, but he came home with a bit of sunburn.

"I'm not used to heat like that," he said. "I went a few games without a shirt on and really felt it afterward."

Gray said the trip was a good way for him to improve his soccer skills.

"I wish I was still down there," he said.

Dwight Carpenter was another of the players who had a good experience playing in the Indigenous Soccer Cup in New Mexico.

"I thought it was a great experience," he said. "I just wish there were more people who wanted to step up and attend tournaments like these."

Dwight said that it only takes some determination to reach accomplishments in sports.

"You have to start with a commitment and stick to it," he said.