Team Alberta shows the medals won at the North American Indigenous Games at Halifax July 15-23. Starting in the top left and proceeding clockwise are Abbie Cottingham, Destiny Castagna, Macy Giroux and Elle MacIntosh.

Two High Prairie girls have returned home from the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax July 15-23 with bronze medals.

Abbie Cottingham, 19, and Elle MacIntosh, 18, were part of Team Alberta’s 4 x 50-metre 19 Under Female freestyle relay team which placed third in a time of 2:04.54 seconds. Other members of the team were Destiny Castagna, only 12, of Camrose, and Macy Giroux, 16, of Calgary.

Placing first was British Columbia in a time of 1:53.91 seconds while Wisconsin placed second in 1:55.40.

Both girls were born and raised in High Prairie.

MacIntosh was appreciative of her hard-earned medal.

“They put a lot of detail into it,” she says.

Meanwhile Cottingham says the team stayed together which helped them bond and reach their success.

MacIntosh started swimming with the Dolphins when she was 13, Cottingham when she was 12. Both girls have been coached by Janelle Gallivan and Larkin Stokes their entire careers.

While being pleased with the medal, MacIntosh was also happy with her individual performances She swam in five events and “beat a lot of my best times.” She placed eighth out of 15 in the 50-metre breaststroke, 11th out of 13 in the 200-metre freestyle, 13th out of 15 in the 100-metre breaststroke, 14th out of 19 in the 50-metre freestyle, and 16th out of 22 in the 100-metre freestyle.

Cottingham also rose to the occasion recording personal best times in all five of her individual events despite not winning a medal. She placed sixth in the 50-metre breaststroke, seventh in the 50-metre butterfly, eighth in the 100-metre freestyle, 10th in the 200-metre medley, and 12th in the 100-metre breaststroke.

“The competition was much higher,” says Cottingham, adding it made her adrenalin kick in.

She added watching how other swimmers prepared gave her some tips she used.

“I started to do what they did.”

For example, she started breathing every two strokes in the 100-metre freestyle.

And, being exposed to different coaches allowed her to try different methods.

Both girls were pleased with the cultural experience offered to athletes. MacIntosh enjoyed the visits to the Halifax Harbour and Peggy’s Cove, despite the heavy rain.

The cultural village offered many opportunities to mix with other athletes and enjoy the experience. MacIntosh especially enjoyed the ribbon skirts and hearing the throat singing – an Inuit custom.

“It (cultural village) was a hang out spot,” says MacIntosh.

“I enjoyed meeting new people and the overall experience of being a part of the Alberta swim team. Just getting to see
all the different teams and athletes and the stuff they had planned for the athletes,” she adds.

Cottingham especially enjoyed the opening ceremonies.

“The chiefs there talked about their language and I saw outfits and dances,” she says.

“It was cool,” says Cottingham, adding organizers mixed in more modern music such as hip hop and reggae.

Like MacIntosh, she enjoyed learning about the history of Halifax during tours.

MacIntosh discovered the Indigenous Games on Facebook and the opportunity it had for her. She sent her swimming times into the Indigenous Sports Council of Alberta and was accepted.

“It was kind of based on who had the fastest times (of applicants,” says Macintosh.

Cottingham found out about the opportunity through MacIntosh’s mother.

About the only drawback to the Games experience was the long wait for buses at some of the events, says Cottingham. The 2 a.m. arrival in Halifax did not help either.

But pleasing to Cottingham was the fact Team Alberta’s swimming team won 30 of Alberta’s 86 medals.

“We dominated swimming,” she says.

MacIntosh graduated from E.W. Pratt High School in 2022 and works at the pool. She plans to attend Concordia University in Edmonton this fall to work toward being an elementary school teacher.

Cottingham also graduated from Pratt in 2022 and works at the pool and coaches local volleyball.

MacIntosh is the daughter of Glen and Wendy MacIntosh. Cottingham is the daughter of Jason Cottingham and Misti Sekulich.

by Chris Clegg

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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