POULSBO — Running on a manicured course might not be always enough for Katrina Weinmann. Throw in dense forest, a compass and map, and the potential to be lost and it may be more appealing to the North Kitsap senior.
Weinmann, 18, is an orienteer with the Cascade Orienteering Club. She was selected as one of eight to attend the 2014 Junior World Orienteering Championships for the U.S. women’s team in mid-April. The championships are in July in Bulgaria.
Weinmann will use what she’s learned over the past two-and-a-half years with the club. That includes just as much mental preparedness, as physical. Weinmann is coached by Alex Frank, who is also an assistant coach on the North Kitsap track team and works with the distance team.
“The trick to be better, is you figure out you’re lost sooner and get back on track faster,” she said.
Orienteering is an international sport that combines racing and navigation. Contestants use detailed maps to select their routes, making their way to control points in a specific sequence before finishing. Races are timed.
Orienteering can include foot races, skiing, mountain biking, long-distance running, and other forms. Weinmann competes in foot races.
Depending on how difficult the terrain is finding control points and finishing could be as easy as following the correct path, to navigating unmarked terrain using the geological features of the landscape. Weinmann describes it as a cross country race, but with an unmarked course.
Weinmann competes in orienteering during the winter, in between cross country in the fall, and track in the spring. It’s a way to stay in shape for those sports, she said. However, it became more than that when she was selected to be on the U.S. Junior Standing Team. “That’s when I started training more seriously,” she said.
There are 16 athletes who made the U.S. team who will compete in the Junior Championships, who were on the Standing Team. There are eight men and eight women — two alternates on both teams. The Junior Championship team was selected based on scores, 12-month ranking, and national races. Team trials were held at the end of March.
Being an orienteering racer, Weinmann has had the opportunity to travel some, and compete in areas otherwise untouched by other sports. A race could take her to Arizona, for example, or a college campus. She enjoys campuses, she said; her favorite so far being the University of Washington.
Each racing venue can also come with its own risks and hazards. Weinmann can find herself navigating through cacti, scrambling over rocks and logs, or bounding down steep hills.
“They all have different hazards,” she said. “… You have the hazard of being stuck in blackberry bushes.”
If it’s difficult to believe orienteering can be hazardous, just look at Weinmann’s right leg; Covered in scratches after coming in contact with bushes at Magnuson Park. “There’s always something,” she said.
Though she can train for orienteering by running and becoming accustomed to maps, Weinmann said the best way to improve is to simply go and compete. To prepare, you have to be out there, she said.
Even the best orienteers can get lost, she said. Weinmann has been lost for more than 10 minutes before during a race. She has not finished before, as well.
The trick to running a fast race is to quickly recognize you’re lost, and then get back on track. “It’s the difference of a 10-second mistake versus a 10-minute mistake,” she said.
The races have a safety net. Orienteers have to punch in at each control point, and the finish; even if someone doesn’t finish a race. Everyone carries a whistle, in case of emergency.
The best practice is to take the time you need to finish, Weinmann said.
“I always feel pressure, because you know the clock is ticking and you’re being timed,” she said. “You just have to take a deep breath and just look at the features… “
Weinmann isn’t sure what the future of orienteering holds for her. After the Junior Championships, she will be heading off to the University of Pittsburgh. There is the Senior Championships, which she would like to compete in when she’s more experienced.
“I really want to keep with it,” she said.
For now, however, she has Bulgaria to focus on.