Pressure on, but champs meet challenge

TOP TEAM: The combined New Plymouth Girls’ High/Boys’ High team, back from left, Cory Sutherland, 16, Hamish Sturmer, 17, Tom Spencer, 17, Ruby Tinson, 17, Kerryn Jansen, 16, Erika Barr, 18 and team captain William Adlam, 17, took out the Hillary Challenge for the second year in a row. Missing from the photo is Ellie Tvrdeich, 17.
TOP TEAM: The combined New Plymouth Girls’ High/Boys’ High team, back from left, Cory Sutherland, 16, Hamish Sturmer, 17, Tom Spencer, 17, Ruby Tinson, 17, Kerryn Jansen, 16, Erika Barr, 18 and team captain William Adlam, 17, took out the Hillary Challenge for the second year in a row. Missing from the photo is Ellie Tvrdeich, 17.

Taranaki's dominance in the annual gruelling Hillary Challenge continued this year with a combined New Plymouth Boys' High, Girls' High team taking the title ahead of Opunake High School.

Eleven teams from New Zealand along with St Leonards College, from Melbourne, competed in the the five-day Genesis Energy Hillary Challenge at Tongariro's Outdoor Pursuits Centre last week.

New Plymouth won, followed by Opunake High School and a combined Whangarei Boys' High, Girls' High team was third.

New Plymouth has been the top secondary school outdoor adventure team in New Zealand nine times out of the 13 years the competition has been running and has been second four times.

This record puts the current team under some pressure.

William Adlam, 17, said they felt pressure, not just defending their title, but the New Plymouth team has never been lower than second.

"We don't want to be worse than second. It's massive pressure."

Six of the eight team members had competed before, but that didn't make it easier, he said.

"It's different. I think parts of it were harder this year. In some ways it makes it easier, there's not so many surprises and you can prepare yourself better for it. But you also know how hard it's going to be."

Team-mate Tom Spencer, 17, said because they kept winning, people thought it must be easy, but it's not.

They've been training for nine months, twice a week and most weekends, as well as individually, he said.

New Plymouth coach Philip Hewlett said there were a number of reasons why New Plymouth and Opunake dominated the event.

"There is a really neat community in Taranaki with orienteering clubs. There's lots happening in terms of adventure and the outdoors and there's the mountain on our doorstep. There are great opportunities to get out and do stuff."

The Hillary Challenge was easily the toughest secondary school event in the country, he said.

It included 12 hours of initiative and problem solving challenges where teams are scored for teamwork as well as outcomes. Then there is a two-day rogaine covering about 60km. To round it all off there is a five-hour adventure race covering more than 50km, which this year included mountain biking, bush running, caving, and gorging.

Opunake High School head of PE Matt Lash said he was very proud of his team. "But we are obviously disappointed we didn't come away with a win."

For the last five years the team has finished in the top three.

It's the highest profile sport at the school and the school's leaders and role models all compete in the Hillary Challenge, he said.

Taranaki Daily News