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2022 Australian Schools Championships – ACT Team Report

After a three-year hiatus the Australian Schools Orienteering Championships (ASOC) were finally held again last week as part of the 2022 Australian Championships carnival. A team of 20 ACT students, eight boys and twelve girls, travelled to central Victoria to compete in nine events in as many days. The team was managed by Susanne Harrysson and Tom de Jongh, and coached by Paul de Jongh.

Students were selected to compete in one of four Schools Championship classes, junior (12-15 yrs) and senior (16-19 yrs), boy and girls. Other official teams were selected to represent each state and territory (except NT), and two New Zealand teams also competed against the Australian teams in the Southern Cross Junior Challenge. In addition, independent students who had not been selected in their state teams were also able to participate as individuals in the Schools Championship events.

Senior GirlsJunior GirlsSenior BoysJunior Boys
Justine HobsonSanda HalpinOwen RadajewskiOliver Bishop
Natalie MillerElla HoggPatrick Shelton AgarConnor Dent
Ingrid Shelton AgarKaty Hogg*Elye Dent
Zoe TerrillAriadna IskhakovaHayden Dent
Katherine MaundrellJosh Mansell
Alice RadajewskiMax Walter
Aoife Rothery
Mira Walter*
*travelling reserve.

There were more highlights and funny moments than can possibly be recounted here, but special mention must be given to Hayden Dent and Justine Hobson who were both selected in the Australian Schools Honour Team following their excellent performances at the Schools Championships.

Saturday 24 September, Victorian Championships Middle, Jubilee Lake

For nearly all the team this would be their first time ever navigating in gold mining terrain, but you wouldn’t have known it around camp and at the assembly area, where the atmosphere felt relaxed and ready, with only the barest hint of apprehension.

There was certainly a bit of learning curve for the first few controls, but everyone rose to the challenge and adapted well to the new terrain. Elye Dent made the most of the long finish chute to open what would later prove to be an unassailable lead in the team finish split competition.

Standout runs of the day included:

  • Connor Dent, first place in M12A.
  • Ariadna Iskhakova, second place in W14A.

Saturday 24 September, Grand Prix, Daylesford

The opening ceremony was followed by the new and innovative Grand Prix event. Coach’s advice was to take this one easy to preserve legs for the days ahead. Of course, this advice was promptly forgotten in the excitement of the frantic mass-start races. Consequently, a few team members did feel the effects of sprinting up the steep slopes over the following days.

Runs of the day included:

  • Connor Dent and Hayden Dent, first and second place in M12A respectively.
  • Elye Dent, first place in M14A.
  • Ariadna Iskhakova, third place in W14A.

Sunday 25 September, Australian Championships Middle, Blackwood

As expected, this new mining terrain proved to be highly technical, with absolute focus required from start to finish. A few members of the team had the extra pressure of carrying live GPS trackers to be shown on the big screen in the arena. Unsurprisingly, there were numerous mistakes, but most were able kept their focus to relocate and recover well to achieve some solid results.

Runs of the day included:

  • Hayden Dent, first place in M12A, closely followed by Connor Dent in second place.
  • Elye Dent, first place in M14A
  • Alice Radajewski, third Australian in W14A, and Sanda Halpin who wasn’t far behind as fourth Australian.

Monday 26 September, Schools Championships Sprint, Kyneton

Cool and damp weather greeted starters in quarantine for the first race of the Schools Championships, but thankfully the rain held off throughout the competition period.

Competitors were challenged to a race in three parts, a short and fast section around the grounds of Kyneton Botanic Gardens, followed by a high-speed section of more open parkland, and lastly an intense and highly intricate section of campus detail at Sacred Heart College. This final section of the course would prove crucial, with the detailed mapping of the school and closely placed controls catching out many runners.

Race day nerves got the better of a few team members, but everyone managed to successfully complete their courses. This put the ACT team in second place in the overall Championship, four points behind the dominant NSW team, and at the head of a close pack of teams with just two points separating the teams in second through fifth.

Runs of the day included:

  • Justine Hobson, second Australian and fifth outright in the Senior Girls.
  • Elye Dent, second outright in the Junior Boys.
  • Hayden Dent, third Australian in the Junior Boys.
  • Zoe Terrill, who placed unexpectedly well after a spate of mispunches wrought havoc on the Senior Girls field. The lesson – just check your numbers and complete the course, you never know what might happen!

Tuesday 27 September, Schools Championships Long, Mount Alexander

A foreboding forecast meant that coach and manager had plenty of clothing to return from the long walk to the start, but once again the weather held to provide ideal cool and dry conditions for fast running.

The ACT team relished the opportunity to run in seemingly familiar fast and open granite terrain, ‘it’s just like our local maps’ was a common refrain at the finish.

Solid performances from team members across all classes pushed the ACT team ahead of the chasing pack to maintain second place overall, trailing NSW by 8 points, but now five points clear of Qld in third.

Runs of the day included:

  • Sanda Halpin, a stunning third place in Junior Girls. Sanda spent a good deal of time as the clubhouse leader, much to the enjoyment of Susanne and Paul who were keeping up with the live results and radio controls while guiding later starters at the remote start.
  • Hayden Dent, second place in the competitive Junior Boys field.
  • Owen Radajewski, second Australian and fourth outright in Senior Boys, in only his first year in that age class.

Wednesday 28 September, Schools Championships Relay, Wattle Gully

The Schools Championships Relay Day is always a highlight of the Australian Orienteering calendar, with all the teams proudly displaying their team colours and doing everything they can to encourage their teammates. Managers and coaches were not immune, with Tom, Susanne, and Paul all having their nails painted yellow and blue, in addition to the rest of the team.

The Junior Girls class was a highlight, showcasing the tremendous depth of talent in the ACT Junior Girl ranks. The ACT 1 team (Ariadna Iskhakova, Sanda Halpin, Alice Radajewski) finished first of the Australian teams (second outright), and the ACT 2 team (Aoife Rothery, Ella Hogg, Katherine Maundrell) was third of the Australian teams (fifth outright) finishing ahead of many of the official Australian State and New Zealand teams.

The ACT Senior Girls (Natalie Miller, Ingrid Shelton Agar, Justine Hobson) were the second placed Australian team (fifth outright), the Junior Boys (Elye Dent, Joshua Mansell, Hayden Dent) were third of the official Australian teams (sixth outright), and the Senior Boys (Owen Radajewski, Max Walter, Patrick Shelton Agar) were fifth of the official Australian teams (ninth outright).

Outstandingly, the entire team heeded coach’s advice to double check their control numbers, and were one of only three state teams not to record a single mispunch or disqualification. This cemented the ACT’s second place overall Australian Schools Championships, but no one could touch the dominant NSW team, who in turn were convincingly beaten by both NZ teams in the Southern Cross Junior Challenge.
The final Australian Schools Championship standings: NSW 71, ACT 61, Tas 52, Vic 47, SA 42, Qld 41, WA 13.

It is worth noting that many of the NSW team’s star runners will no longer be eligible to compete at next year’s Schools Championships.

Runs of the day included:

  • Max Walter, who posted a competitive time while running up a class to complete the ACT Senior Boy team and therefore ensured that the ACT Team held on to its second place in the overall championship.
  • Katherine Maundrell, running for the second ACT Junior Girl team, who posted the fourth fastest time of anyone in that class.

Friday 30 September, Australian Championships Sprint, Salesian College

After a relaxing rest day spent at Sovereign Hill it was time to get back into the competition for the final weekend of the championships. Sunny and warm weather greeted the team for the first time at the pleasant grounds of Rupertswood Mansion, birthplace of the Ashes urn. What followed was a relatively standard Australian campus sprint, with plenty of left/right route choice decisions and a smattering of impassable traps which caught out a few team members.

Runs of the day included:

  • Hayden Dent, first place M12A.
  • Elye Dent, who recovered from an early mistake to take first place in M14A.
  • Alice Radajewski, fastest Australian and equal third outright in W14A.
  • Ariadna Iskhakova, third Australian in W14A.
  • Katherine Maundrell, third Australian in W16A.

Saturday 1 October, Australian Championships Long, Nuggety Range

The published climb and distance figures meant that this was expected to be a physically challenging race, and so it proved, with a few team members (including coach Paul) spending a very long day out in the forest.

Runs of the day included:

  • Hayden Dent, took first place in M12A to complete a clean sweep of Australian titles in that class.
  • Elye Dent, first place in M14A, also completing a clean sweep of Australian titles.
  • Owen Radajewski, first Australian in M16A (third outright).

Sunday 2 October, Australian Relays, Campbells Creek

At the end of a big week, and following the long distance and disco the day before, there were some tired looking faces on the team buses on the way to the final race. However the excitement of the big mass start woke everyone up, and goaded more than a few first leg runners into mistakes on their first controls. The team used up all their remaining energy in the now familiar gold mining terrain to achieve some of their best results of the week.

Runs of the day included:

  • Natalie Miller and Justine Hobson, who both ran up a class in W21E to form a team with ACT ASOC team alum Tara Melhuish and took third place in that class.
  • Hayden Dent, who anchored the first place ACT team in M/W12A (together with Zaf Bluett-Jones and Tessa Radajewski).
  • Oliver Bishop and Elye Dent, who joined Matty Maundrell to take third place in M14A.
  • Sanda Halpin, Ariadna Iskhakova, and Alice Radajewski who were the first Australian team (second outright) in W14A.

Overall, it was a very successful championship campaign for the ACT schools team, all of whom can be proud of their performances throughout the week, and who I am sure have learnt a lot from the experience. It was also great to see the students reacquainting old friendships and forming new ones with their competitors on the other state teams.

Thank you to all the students for supporting their teammates and giving it their absolute best in all the races, it was a privilege to coach such a cohesive and enthusiastic team. A special thank you to team captains Patrick Shelton Agar, Justine Hobson, and Natalie Miller whose adept mentoring made a big difference to the experience of what was an unusually young and inexperienced team.

I am sure that many team members are already looking forward to next year’s Championships, to be held in Western Australia. The depth of the team’s junior classes certainly bodes well for the success of the team in the years ahead.

Paul de Jongh
2022 ACT ASOC Team Coach

Photos by Tom de Jongh, ACT ASOC Team Manager