Junior navigates onto national orienteering team

Anna Malesis, Managing Editor

She is running through the woods, compass in hand. She looks down at her map: right or left? Time is running out—she can’t get lost now! Quickly reorienting herself, she chooses left and continues racing down the trail.

No, junior Tyra Christopherson isn’t some sort of female Indiana Jones escaping a cursed tomb. She is an orienteer.

Orienteering is the sport of navigation: participants are given a map labeled with a set of ordered checkpoints, and then they race to find them all in the correct sequence.

“I like how orienteering combines your mind and your body,” Christopherson said. “Instead of just running, you have to think while you do it; instead of just thinking, you have to do something while you’re thinking.”

Christopherson began orienteering with her family when she was about five or six, just running the easiest course, but it wasn’t until high school that she started getting serious and running courses on her own. As a sophomore, she joined the Washington Interscholastic Orienteering League, or WIOL, and began to race for Liberty. She ran her fist race on the JV course, but after winning the race by nine minutes, she started racing Varsity in the league.

Over the summer, Christopherson began working with a coach, and he suggested she send in an application for the Junior National Team—a group of 12 female and 12 male orienteers under 20 from around the country.

“In the fall I was really overwhelmed: I just started working with a coach, and you’re talking national team? I didn’t think that would be possible, but then I started doing really well at the varsity races in WIOL. I realized that it could actually be a possibility,” Christopherson said. “I was also encouraged by the fact that the girl who won Varsity last year was on the national team and my times were pretty comparable to hers for last year.”

In December, she sent in an application, and in January, she made the team.

“I found out while I was in Learn and Earn, and I kind of wanted to get up and do a happy dance or give a celebratory shout, but we were having quiet work time,” Christopherson said.

As a member of the Junior National Team, she will participate in weekly group calls with other teammates from the west coast and monthly group calls with the entire team. During the calls, they will talk about training goals and do armchair orienteering, where they will look at a map and discuss where they would go if they were running the course. She is also required to attend two high level meets and two national training camps.