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Empire State Games Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 9, 2012

Decades of finding their way leads Hawkes-Teeters to silver and gold

ADIRONDACKS — Orienteering is a sport where competitors use a map and a compass to find their way from one point to another, checking in at each point; the racer to complete the course the fastest wins.

In the winter, and at the Empire State Games in Lake Placid, orienteering can be done on cross-country skis.

Susan Hawkes-Teeter, and her husband, Philip, of Berne, have been involved with orienteering, and competing at the Games, for over 20 years.

Despite not being able to train much leading up to the Games, due to a snow shortage in the Hilltowns, Susan Hawkes-Teeter placed second in her age group, and her husband took first place in his.

“However, there was not a lot of competition,” laughed Hawkes-Teeter. “It’s not like in some years where you feel really amazed when you get a medal.”

She estimated that ski orienteering at the Games had one-third of the participants it usually attracts, due in part to the mild weather. (See related story.)

“Hopefully, we’ll have a better year of snow next year and the participation will be higher,” she concluded. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some new kids started with the sport.”

The Hawkes-Teeters originally planned to try snowshoe racing, after the Norray family, in Berne, recruited them.

“Ski orienteering sounded like more fun,” said Susan Hawkes-Teeter. Back when she first started attending the Games, the only snowshoe races were sprints.

“You’d exercise for about one minute, and then be done, and I wasn’t very fast,” she said.

When she was looking into orienteering, she discovered that many of the participants were also runners, something she didn’t consider herself to be.

“Then I found out they had free child care at the events, and we had a 2-year-old, so I thought, ‘Hm, that sounds good,’” said Hawkes-Teeter. She liked the idea of being able to go and exercise and bring her child with her, eliminating the need for a babysitter.

Eventually, her son began to compete in orienteering, too, and even competed at the Games for several years, though he did not participate this year.

Hawkes-Teeter found that, although she didn’t enjoy endurance running as a sport, she loved the extra challenge that orienteering adds to a race.

Over the past two decades, the sport has changed some — now competitors wear electronic chips on their fingers, which they insert in a holder at each checkpoint, to register that they were there. When they complete the course, they receive an electronic printout of their results.

The conditions were not ideal at the Games this year, due to the lack of snow this winter. Hawkes-Teeter said there was about an inch of fresh snow covering a layer of ice, which made skiing, especially on the hills, difficult.

She had to remove her skis and carry them at certain points to avoid falling on the slippery ice.

“Even some of the really adventurous, young, and very skilled skiers took off their skis going down certain parts,” she said. “There wasn’t as much falling as I thought there would be, and no one got injured, so that’s a good thing.”

“The course itself was really good,” she said. “There were good route choices, and if there had been a few more inches of snow it would have been great.”

By Anne Hayden

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