On Sunday the Canberra Cockatoos Junior Women’s team won their division of the National Orienteering League and the team captain Tara Melhuish defended her individual National League title, while the Senior Men’s team pulled off a remarkable comeback to win the its Division by one point over Victoria who had led for most of season. It was first win ever for the Junior Women’s team, but the eighth straight for the Senior Men.
The Junior Women won the first four races and after opening up a big lead were never challenged for the remainder of the season of 17 races spread throughout Australia from March to October. The key members of the team (see featured image) throughout the season were (age in Dec 2018):
- Tara Melhuish (19) team captain, who was introduced to orienteering through her older brother Stephen who began orienteering as a student at Canberra Grammar. Has represented Australia at two World Junior Championships in 2017 and 2018. Won the National League Junior Women division in 2017 and again in 2018. She spent the Australian winter in Europe honing her orienteering skills.
- Zoe Melhuish (16) who followed older sister Tara into the sport and her talent became obvious very early. She was the 2017 ACT Orienteer of the Year. In 2018, at age 15 years and 8 months, she became the youngest competitor ever to represent Australia at the World Junior Championships.
- Ella Cuthbert (16) who is a member of a family which engages in many outdoor activities. She was a cross country runner who was looking more of a challenge. Early on she developed a friendship with the Melhuish sisters which has been beneficial to all three.
- Caitlin Young (17) who was introduced to the sport by her school teacher Rohan Hyslop and she began orienteering regularly through Map Mates, an introductory program conducted by Orienteering ACT.
- Miho Yamazaki (18) who was introduced to orienteering through uncle Andrew Cumming Thom and fellow students at Canberra Girls Grammar School, Tara and Zoe Melhuish.
As all five will still be eligible for the Junior division in 2019 so barring mishaps they should be well placed to defend their Team’s title in 2019. The final scores for the Junior Women’s Division were Canberra Cockatoos 90, SA Arrows 70, Tassie Foresters 67.
The Senior Men had dropped behind the Victorian team and seemed well out of contention, only to win four of the last five races which were held in South Australia. The combined time for the Canberra Cockatoos fastest three (Matt Crane, Andrew Barnett, Marty Dent, pictured below) in the last race was 127 mins 41 sec compared to 131 min 25 sec for Victoria’s fastest three. This was the closest finish in the National League since the Victorians toppled the Cockatoos in the last race in Beechworth in 2003. The final scores for the Senior Men’s division were Canberra Cockatoos 124, Victoria 123 and NSW Stingers 80.