# Australian Schools Challenge 2016

Australian Schools Challenge 2016

Max Griffiths October 2016

Held on the sunny Sunshine Coast (and the weather definitely delivered with only an hour of rain on 1 day in the entire 12 day trip), the Australian Orienteering Champs and the Southern Cross Junior Challenge saw seven of North West’s up and coming junior orienteers recently competing. 

This is the most NW has had in the team for many years and shows North West’s strength in the junior grades with the promise of good things to come! For many of the team, especially the juniors, this is the first taste of international orienteering and we all gained invaluable experience running on diverse terrain outside of New Zealand (see below for maps and analysis).

New Zealand has won the Southern Cross Junior Challenge (New Zealand competing against the Australian State School Teams) every year since it started and this was again proven this year. The team won every grade in the Sprint and 3 out of the 4 grades in both the long and relay events. Only 3 points from a perfect score in the overall competition and one of the most convincing wins NZ has had, being well clear of every other state team. This was a great experience for all of us with a fantastic week of competition and the opportunity to mix socially with the Australian School Orienteers.

Sixteen North West members in all were competing in the Australian Champs held either end of the schools’ competition, including three additional North West juniors who were named in the Regional Representative NZ Invitational Team – Tegan Knightbridge, Heidi Stolberger and Liam Stolberger. It’s always great to see a contingent from the club make it over to overseas events like these and be able to compare ourselves to our Australian counterparts on terrain that is something a little different to flat open pineforest.

The terrain for the final weekend, containing the Middle and Long distance events was the most interesting and fun terrain I’ve ever run on (now to be fair, I haven’t run outside of NZ or Australia, but people who have, still agreed!).  All of my maps and routes from Australian Champs can be found at http://www.numberoneaucklanddoma.com/maps/index.php?user=Max however here is an analysis of the M20E long distance and in particular, one of the longer legs.

For me, finishing the long distance was a mental and physical challenge for 90 minutes, although to my surprise it was my mental side that was more drained at the end. The style of terrain meant that attempting to run too fast was a) a huge physical drain because of the tough terrain and b) a huge risk due to the technicality of terrain and the lack of many obvious features to relocate off. The need for constant discipline in map-contact made this a race I really enjoyed. The terrain itself was a mixture of green bush with small patches of pine forest, bare rock, lots of rock detail and mostly vague contours. I made a hash of the first couple of controls as can be seen from my route so from then on I used tracks as handrails and stepping stones as much as possible, not only to make navigation easier, but also to enable faster running speed.

Looking ahead I knew the loop from 8-13 was going to be the make or break of the course in terms of navigational mistakes, as a big enough slip up here would likely result in a large amount of time lost in relocation out to major features (tracks or large bare rock). Because of this I was careful to plan right into the control circle and slow down as soon as I felt something feel even vaguely different from what I was expecting. Looking at leg 9 below:

My initial thought was the blue dashed line shown, however I ended up on my route shown for a number of reasons:

1.     I would have had to lose a lot of height down to the track below 9 and then climb up into the control, increasing the likelihood of a mistake (climbing into controls I avoid, exhaustion = lack of map contact)

2.     The route I ended up taking was straighter than my initial thought which initially I was hesitant about in seeing the mess of green and grey on the line just before 9 however upon a little closer look I noticed:

3.     There was a ‘highway’ of bare rock (grey on map) all the way from just after the track all the way to just before 9 which, if you have not run on a map with bare rock before, is very easy to follow and you can easily open up the speed on the smooth terrain.

In my opinion, the combination of these 3 points outweighed the safer attack in from the track. Once decided on this route, I took a vague bearing to the track midway (not being too pedantic about slight variation) exiting out of 8 to the reentrant just north of the line. From the track I picked out the spur and the edge of bare rock and from there it was a matter of following progress on the bare rock, which was confirmed when passing the cliffs on the south edge of the bare rock about 150m before the control. Despite this attack point I still managed to overshoot the control by about 100m, not quite reading the mess of rock detail inside the circle carefully enough (at 1:15,000). A quick relocation and into the control losing about 1:30 in the end.

A 3 minute highlights video  from the carnival can be found here (Example of the type of bare rock at 2:40).

This race, and the rest of the carnival was great fun and already getting me, and many others pumped for more overseas orienteering to come.   

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