For many years, Napier Boys’ High School was the stronghold of New Zealand secondary school orienteering.
Napier BHS won the NZSS Orienteering Top Boys School title 14 years in a row, one of the most impressive winning streaks of any school in any sport at the national level.
Last year the sky blue of Napier was replaced by a different shade of blue when Mount Albert Grammar School captured the title for the first time.
Last weekend, MAGS successfully defended their title in style at Woodhill Forest and Glenfield College as well as picking up the Boys Premier School title.
“Last year was a big year for us,” said team captain Adam Bateman. “It was going to be the 15th year for Napier to win so it was a pleasant surprise for us to win.”
“This year the orienteering culture at our school has really grown,” added Adam. “After last year’s success we had more people wanting to join and we have really increased our numbers with the juniors especially and this is really great to see.”
“We finished with about 500 points, which was really cool as we finished 160 points ahead of the next school, Havelock North High School.”
The NZSS Orienteering Championships were run over three days, with a three-person teams relay event on Friday, a long race on Saturday and a sprint race on Sunday. Points were accrued for each school in the two individual races as well as the relay.
In Friday’s relay, the MAGS teams won the Junior Boys, Intermediate Boys races and finished first and second in the Senior Boys.
“The course for the seniors on Saturday was about 6km, a bit of a longer run through the forest than the relay. You also accrue points for your school as well as trying to do your best for your individual result. The sprint is more of an urban run, around the school, with points awarded on the same basis as Saturday’s race.”
Team manager Neill McGowan said the school’s success has been a few years in the making.
Former MAGS student and New Zealand representative Kieran Woods has been coaching the boys team since 2016, building depth, consistency and a winning culture.
As well as the boys, the MAGS girls team had a successful weekend.
“The girls finished eighth last year, so we made a goal for them to return this year and finish in the top five,” explained Neill. “They ended up finishing third. Last year they got 107 points and this year they got over 300.”
Baradene College won the Top Girls School title, winning it back after losing last year to fellow Auckland School Diocesan, and also won the Girls Premier School title.
Prior to winning the NZSS title, the MAGS boys team also won the Auckland Relays and shared the North Island regional title this year.
In April, both senior and junior boys teams represented New Zealand at the World Schools Orienteering Championships in Estonia. Both five-member teams qualified for this by winning the NZSS title last year.
“The juniors finished third and the seniors finished ninth,” said Neill.
This follows on from 2017 when the MAGS juniors represented NZ in Italy and finished fifth. That team also won the Fair Play Award in those championships.
“With the World Schools every two years, hopefully it will give the boys a good incentive to win next year and qualify for the World Schools again in 2021,” enthused Adam who is year 13.
Several of the MAGS orienteering athletes are also accomplished in cross country and athletics.
“Luke Clements is one of our intermediate boys, and he actually finished the sprint on Sunday morning and then headed down to Papakura and won the Auckland U16 Road Running Championships in the afternoon,” said Neill.
Luke won the sprint race on Sunday, while MAGS student Mitchell Cooper finished second behind winner Will Tidswell (Havelock North High School) in the Senior Boys long race. Jay McElwee was third in both the Junior Boys long and sprint races.
Orienteering athletes also compete in multisport and adventure racing. “I know many orienteers, especially at other schools, who are big in adventure racing. There is a bit of crossover between the two,” said Adam.
Five MAGS students (Adam Bateman, Mitchell Cooper, Luke Clements, Sam Taylor Sinclair and Daniel Wood) have been selected for the New Zealand Schools team to compete in Australia later this year.
This year’s NZSS Orienteering Championships were livestreamed. Watch highlights of Friday’s relay races and see links to the action on Saturday and Sunday here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b__HAngtTc0
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