Last weekend Napier Boys’ High School won their 14th consecutive NZSS Orienteering title in the 30th edition of the event held in rural Wairarapa.
The early events had as few as 60 or 70 competitors but now over 350 athletes assemble to contest the races. There are three disciplines run over as many days.
First up is the sprint course, which is 2–3.5 km long. It requires speed of leg and thought, where a hesitation or poor decision can cost a few seconds and several places. This year, Rathkeale College’s 60 hectare campus made for very fast times.
Long races can be up to 6 km for senior boys, with nearly 300 metres of climb by the optimal route. A different athlete often wins – one with stamina who is more subtly in touch with map and terrain. Running up the wrong gully can cost irreplaceable minutes. The Ngaumu Forest map, Mingimingi, provided deep stream gullies, tangled undergrowth and steep hills to supplement the mud underfoot.
The final day are the relays, which invariably decide the champions. Teams of three run branching courses in spectator friendly races. After all the rain, soft underfoot conditions made every step a slog on the rolling farm of the Riverlands map, near Opaki.
Napier’s dominance can be traced to the arrival of Derek Morrison’s children at the Boys’ and Girls’ High Schools around the turn of the millennium. While success was not instant, as coach Derek built a sustained programme with a competitive culture at both schools – NGHS has nine titles of their own.
Even now, with his last child nearly a decade gone, Derek continues as NGHS coach and, with the two schools’ teams working so closely together, has never really left NBHS either. However, since graduating from Derek’s assistant, Hugh Forlong-Ford has in recent years been the coach of record for NBHS.
The Napier secret is not startling. It depends on the simple principles of recruitment, skill, fitness and enjoyment. While there are certainly members of the team who focus exclusively on orienteering, most see orienteering as one sport among many, often using it to supplement their fitness for other sports. Identical trainings are run on consecutive days so that students can choose which meets their other commitments best. Inclusiveness is crucial to the Napier mind set, with newcomers and old hands equally valued. Thus continuity is maintained, so even passing the coaching baton hasn’t interrupted the streak.
While 14 years of sustained success looks utterly dominant, in reality there have been many close run events, chiefly from Hawke’s Bay rivals Havelock North High School (coached by Steve Armon and Derek’s brother, Geoff).
This year, Napier’s victory wasn’t assured until Bayley Stephens-Ellison crossed the line for Napier ahead of HNHS in the Senior Boys’ relay, the last race of the weekend. In 2015, the two schools were separated by a single relay place. But the closest was in 2006 as, when the points were tallied, the two schools shared the title – Napier’s third and, to date, Havelock North’s only one.
Appropriately, New Zealand sporting legend Brian Lochore presented NBHS captain Jonty Anderson with the trophy.
For full results visit: https://wellingtonorienteering.org.nz/#results
Longest National Championship Win Streaks (all sports):
Boys Basketball: Church College, 1984-1991
Girls Basketball: Church College, 1991-1999
Girls Cricket: New Plymouth Girls’ High School, 2003-2008
Boys Hockey: Christchurch Boys’ High School, 1962-1968
Girls Rowing: Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, 1991-1999
Boys Rowing: Wanganui Collegiate, 1963-1969
Boys Rugby Leauge: St. Paul’s College, 2004-2010
Boys Squash: Auckland Grammar School, 2003-2008
Boys Orienteering: Napier Boys’ High School 2014 -2017
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