Adventure racing is a fast growing sport in many schools, with several leading events around the country on the secondary schools calendar for competitors to train for and compete in.
One of these is the New Zealand Secondary Schools Adventure Racing Championships that was held in Cromwell this past Saturday.
The 14th annual NZSS Adventure Race attracted a number of four-person school teams from throughout the South Island and also some North Island schools including from as far north as Whangarei.
The one-day race mixed core disciplines of mountain biking, walking/running, kayaking, abseiling and navigation, with mental agility as well as physical fitness a core requirement for success.
The teams competed together in Boys, Girls and Mixed divisions. Mount Aspiring College won the Boys, Cashmere High School won the Girls and St Andrew’s College took out the Mixed division.
The Mount Aspiring College Boys team won in 6 hours 58 minutes, with StAC’s Mixed team finishing in 7 hours and 19 minutes and Cashmere High School’s Girls team recording 8 hours and 12 minutes.
The winning Mount Aspiring team of three year 12s, Campbell Wright, Laurie Watson and Jack Findlay had started adventure racing in year 10 together and pulled in Zach Smith (year 11) for the South Island adventure race two weeks prior.
They have competed against each other in triathlon but trained together for that with excellent coaches including Chris Waugh from Mt Aspiring Tri Club and Val Burke of Peak Endurance. They were very organised and worked really well as a team, breaking away from the pack only 200m into the start of the ride in the 6am darkness for a 5 minute lead at TA1.
That all blew to bits during the trek when CP1 proved difficult to locate though and the front teams were all searching for it together, after finding it they all left there together and Mt Aspiring knew they had to push hard to regain the lead.
Laurie made a brave navigational decision to take them up a high point which meant they then had the benefit of moving fast down a farm track. Their lead grew from there back on the mountain bikes with Campbell as motivator driving them ever onwards and the team supporting each other through the low points of racing. Abseiling, an orienteering leg and then kayaking left them with a solid win.
StAC’s team were third across the line, behind the leading two Boys team finishers, Mount Aspiring College and Cashmere High School (seniors) and ahead of the third Boys team, Cashmere High School (juniors).
The event started with a 12km mountain bike ride from Cromwell College up into the hills behind Bannockburn to the first transition.
From there, they did a trek gaining over 1000m in elevation finding and picking up several checkpoints along the way. This took the leading teams between three to three and a half hours.
The third leg saw the teams transitioning back to mountain bikes, then winding their way across the top of the mountain and back into Bannockburn. This took approximately and hour and a half on average.
Back down at headquarters, competitors then dropped their bikes and were asked to run about 1km up the hill and then do an abseil down a rock face and run back again.
Next they were given an orienteering card with 11 checkpoints on it, which they had to go away and complete. This took teams about an hour.
The final leg saw the four-person teams split into two-person kayaks and kayak 8-9km back into Cromwell, picking up three checkpoints on the way.
StAC’s team consisted of three boys and one girl.
Their team captain was Henry Spark (year 12), who was part of the StAC’s team that won the schools Coast to Coast race in February.
“One key to doing well in this team event is that you need someone who can read maps really well,” said StAC’s teacher in charge Greg Thompson. “So he was the navigator. If you don’t have a navigator you can spend a lot more time just trying to work out where to go [as happened, see above]. You have got to be thinking the whole time.
“Most teams have a dedicated navigator, and other team members have different roles. So someone might be in charge of eating and drinking properly and someone else with equipment and so on.”
In these races, teams know what to train for and prepare for, but are only given the course map the night before, so they can go away and study and plan their route as best as they can before the race the next morning.
The other three members of StAC’s team were Molly Spark (year 11, related to Henry but not his sister), Tom Wells (year 12) and Ben Ferrier (year 11).
StAC’s preparation for the NZSS race included competing in the South Island Secondary Schools race a fortnight ago in Gore – although it was with a completely different team.
“We finished second in that one, and had a year 10 and a year 11. The other students competing this past weekend were doing a mountain bike race in Hamner instead.”
Cashmere High School had six teams competing at the event. The winning girls team, Charlotte Doogue, Lilly van Keulen, Nina MacDonald and Eva Elliot, will be joined by athletes from the top Boys team Neal Hay and Will Sherratt in Cashmere's Hillary Challenge team early next term.
One of the next events coming up for school teams is one of the two annual Hillary Challenge 6-hour races.
This year's 6-hour races are in the North Island (In Rotorua on 23 June) and in the South Island (in Geraldine on 26 May). These are qualifiers for the Hillary Challenge final at the Tongariro Centre in the central North Island in 2020.
The 19th annual challenge to find the top Secondary School Outdoor Adventure Team in New Zealand - from teams that qualified from the 6-hour races last year - will take place 29 April – 3 May.
The 5-day Torpedo7 Hillary Challenge is held each year at Hillary Outdoors Tongariro, and is only open to a total of 12 teams, each consisting of 8 students from Year 12 or 13. The teams will be scored on their skill, speed and endurance during a 5-day series of outdoor adventure challenges, including a 2-day rogaine style wilderness expedition and a multisport race on the final day.
Schools that have qualified for the 2019 final are;
Whangarei Girls and Boys High (Whangarei)
New Plymouth Girls and Boys High Schools (Taranaki)
Motueka High School (Motueka)
Cambridge High School (Cambridge)
St Pauls Collegiate (Hamilton)
Macleans College (Auckland)
Westlake Girls and Boys High Schools (Auckland)
Middleton Grange (Christchurch)
Golden Bay High School (Golden Bay)
Cashmere High (Christchurch)
Francis Douglas/Sacred Heart (Taranaki)
Waimea College (Nelson)
NZSS Adventure Racing Championships, Cromwell 30 March 2019, top three placegetters from each grade:
1st: Mount Aspiring College
2nd: Cashmere High School (seniors)
3rd: Cashmere High School (juniors)
1st: Cashmere High School
2nd: Whangarei Girls’ High School
3rd: Columba College
1st: St Andrew’s College
2nd: Mount Aspiring College
3rd: Cromwell College
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