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2023 Australian Schools Championships – ACT Team Report

An ACT team of 19 ACT students, nine boys and ten girls, travelled to Western Australia to compete in the 2023 ASOC, part of the 2023 Australian Championships Carnival which comprised seven races over nine days. The team was managed by Tom de Jongh and Sarah Bruce, 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), boys and girls. Other teams represented each state and territory (except NT), and two New Zealand teams also competed against the Australian teams in the Southern Cross Junior Challenge.

Senior GirlsJunior GirlsSenior BoysJunior Boys
Ella Hogg (captain)Sanda HalpinMax JohnsonOliver Bishop
Mia KluthKaty HoggJoshua MansellHayden Dent
Katherine MaundrellAriadna IskhakovaOwen Radajewski (captain)Benjamin Mansell
Aoife RotheryNaomi PentonMax WalterMatty Maundrell
Alice RadajewskiMica Walter
Mira Walter
Matty Maundrell, ASOC 2023 Best Newcomer.

The story of the 2023 ACT Australian Schools Orienteering Championships Team (ACT ASOC Team) began almost a year earlier at the 2022 Australian Championships carnival, no sooner had the 2022 ASOC relay concluded than talk turned to ‘next year’, with big goals and grand plans being made.

The ACT Team delivered upon these ambitions with a very successful 2023 Australian Championships campaign, shrinking the overall points deficit to the triumphant NSW team in the ASOC standings, and achieving many more podium placings across the carnival.

In addition, Hayden Dent, Ariadna Iskhakova, and Owen Radajewski were selected in the Australian Schools Honour Team, and Matty Maundrell received the prestigious Rob Simson Memorial Shield for Best Newcomer.

Preparation

Championships success is never merely the product of a good run on the day, and this was well demonstrated by the ACT team with dedicated team members making the most of every opportunity to improve their skills and fitness in the months leading up to the 2023 Championships. This preparation was anchored by Tara’s Saturday morning Blue Lightning trainings and popular Tuesday interval sessions.

Once the team was selected, several more targeted training sessions were held, including virtual courses using old maps, sessions on some top secret new sprint maps, and specific relay preparation. Pre-championship training culminated at the team training camp, with sessions held at the ANU, Teapot Creek (Glenbrook), and Boboyan Divide, plus armchair sessions hosted by coaches Tara and Paul.

Saturday 30 September, Australian Championships Middle, Peterdine – Bitidiin

Australian championship carnivals often begin with an event of lesser standing, such as a state championship, allowing competitors to stretch their legs and adapt to the terrain before the national titles begin in earnest. However, this was not the case in 2023, with competitors thrown in at the deep end at the Australian Middle Distance Championship on day one.

The terrain was fast and open, but still posed considerable technical difficulty. A number of team members commented on the similarity of the terrain to that encountered during the team training camp. Courses wasted no time in entering the challenging rocky hillsides, with tricky short legs causing many runners to come unstuck early. Accordingly, as is so often the case, the best results went to those competitors who were on top of their game right from the start and who maintained their focus throughout the course.

Standout runs of the day included:

  • Hayden Dent, first place in M14A.
  • Sanda Halpin, second Australian and fourth outright in W14A.
  • Katy Hogg, third Australian and sixth outright in W14A.
  • Katherine Maundrell, third place in W16A.

Sunday 1 October, Australian Relay Championships, Peterdine – Bitidiin

On a day that will surely live long in the memory of those present, every single ACT ASOC Team member finished on the outright podium at the 2023 Australian Relay Championships. The terrain was even more open than the preceding day, with exceptionally fast km rates recorded in numerous classes. Things started well for the ACT team when, just 34 minutes after the mass start, Naomi Penton prevailed in a thrilling sprint finish to take the win in M/W12A. It was a sign of things to come, with further outright wins for team members in W14A, W16A, W21AS, and M/W Mixed.

The excellent junior results, together with strong performances in the other age groups, saw the ACT win the Xanthorrhoea Trophy – awarded to the Australian Relay Champion State – for the first time since 2009.

Runs of the day included:

  • Ben Mansell, and Naomi Penton, who joined team sibling Thurein Halpin to take the very first win of the day in M/W12A, just one second ahead of the WA team.
  • Katherine Maundrell, Ella Hogg, and Mia Kluth, who executed their race plans to perfection to take a dominant 12 minute win in the highly competitive W16A class.
  • Sanda Halpin, Katy Hogg, and Mira Walter, who took a strong win in W14A, over seven minutes ahead of second place.
  • Aoife Rothery, and Alice Radajewski, who joined ACT ASOC alum Justine Hobson to take a convincing victory in W21AS.
  • Ariadna Iskhakova, and Max Johnson, who teamed with Jane Saye to win the M/W Mixed class.
  • Matty Maundrell, Mica Walter, and Hayden Dent, second place (first Australian team) in M14A.
  • Max Walter, Josh Mansell, and Oliver Bishop, third place (second Australian team) in M16A.
  • Owen Radajewski, who ran up a class to join Oscar Brown (also running up a class) and coach Paul, to take third place (second Australian team) in M21E, with Owen earning his first Australian championship senior elite medal at just 17 years of age.

Tuesday 3 October, Schools Championships Sprint, Aquinas College – Dyarlgarro

There was a palpable sense of nervousness among team members at the pre-start, but most thrived under the pressure to put the ACT in a strong position on the first day of the ASOC competition.

In the Junior Boys, Hayden Dent’s run was a particular highlight, recovering from 14th place at control three to finish in second outright. The other ACT junior boys showed strong potential but suffered from erratic performances, a single mistake saw Matty Maundrell drop from a possible podium to 12th place; similarly, two big misses dropped Oliver Bishop from the top ten down to 31st. Mica Walter made a solid ASOC debut to finish in 33rd place. Ben Mansell was unlucky to to skip a control at the end of a longer leg, resulting in a mispunch.

Consistent performances were rewarded in the Junior Girls, with many contenders dropping out of the top ten on just a handful of controls. Ariadna Iskhakova was fast from start to finish, never losing more than a handful of seconds, and was appropriately rewarded with third pace. An impressive mistake-free run from Alice Radajewski saw her take eighth place, and Mira Walter wasn’t far behind, finishing 13th after losing around a minute early on in the course. Naomi Penton made a decent ASOC debut to finish in 29th pace, ahead of several older and more experienced competitors. A strong performance from Katy Hogg was sadly spoiled by several mistakes, including a five minute parallel error near the end of the course, relegating her to 32nd place; but it wasn’t all bad news, Katy’s seven second finish split was the outright fastest of the day, setting up her eventual victory in the team finish split challenge. Sanda Halpin was faced with disappointment, a skipped control replacing a likely top-20 result with a mispunch.

Much of the senior boys field was caught out by the inside/outside trap at control 21.

Owen Radajewski was on track for a top five in the Senior Boys until late in the course, when he was caught out by a control description trap, losing around 45 seconds and dropping to ninth place where he would finish. Owen was hardly alone, 19 out of 45 senior boys made the same mistake, including teammates Max Walter and Josh Mansell, neither of whom ever quite got up to full speed in this race, finishing in 37th and 41st places respectively. Max Johnson was steady throughout, losing only 30 seconds to finish in 39th place in his ASOC debut.

Katherine Maundrell and Aoife Rothery both impressed in the Senior Girls, neither lost more than 15 seconds on any control and finished in 13th and 18th places respectively. Ella Hogg had a clean and steady run, finishing in a respectable 27th place. Mia Kluth took a while to settle in to her first ever ASOC course, losing time early but later taking a few top-15 splits to end up in 36th.

Runs of the day included:

  • Hayden Dent, first Australian and second outright in the Junior Boys.
  • Ariadna Iskhakova, first Australian and third outright in the Junior Girls.
  • Alice Radajewski, fourth Australian in the Junior Girls.

Wednesday 4 October, Schools Championships Long, Frazzle Rock – Boyayambeliin

The ASOC Long was a character building experience for all competitors in technically and physically challenging terrain. As expected, vast slabs of bare rock dominated the hillsides and contributed to some interesting route choice legs. What had not been expected was just how much the vegetation had thickened since the map was last updated, considerably slowing runability, and making an already technical map all the more difficult with reduced visibility. The junior courses in particular were set at the more challenging end of the moderate difficulty spectrum.

The ACT showed its depth in the Junior Boys with Matty Maundrell (ninth), Hayden Dent (11th), and Oliver Bishop (14th) all producing solid runs. All three boys lost time early but gradually moved up through the field throughout the remainder of the course. Mica Walter was one of very few competitors to record only a single mistake in winsplits, but unfortunately it was a big one – losing more than eight minutes on the tricky sixth control, this bumped him out of the top-30 to finish in 31st place. Ben Mansell (37th) had the longest day in the forest of anyone in the team for the entire week, spending almost two hours on course, but that was far from the longest time in the class. Ben’s stamina and determination were well rewarded, the combined Junior Boys individual results placed the ACT third in the Junior Boys team competition.

Many junior and senior girls lost time in the circle at the final radio control.

In the Junior Girls, Katy Hogg bounced back from a disappointing run in the sprint with a superb ninth place, only two minutes off the Australian podium, and was once again comfortably the fastest in the finish chute. Ariadna Iskhakova wasn’t far behind in tenth place after a somewhat more erratic performance, including a time loss at the final radio control, a common trouble spot in both the Junior and Senior Girls classes. Mira Walter was also on track for a top-ten until the radio, but conceded time on it and the next two controls to finish in a still respectable 16th place. Naomi Penton impressed, making only a few mistakes and successfully limiting each of her losses to little more than two minutes, Naomi’s 20th place was a strong mid-field result for one of the youngest competitors in the Junior Girls class. A very strong start saw Alice Radajewski in third place after 25 minutes, but she struck major trouble at the fifth control and at the troublesome radio, dropping to 29th place by the finish. It was a tough day out for Sanda Halpin, with uncharacteristically large parallel errors on the third control and at the final radio, ending up in 34th place. After two days of good results, the ACT Junior Girls claimed second place in the team competition.

Ella Hogg managed a relatively clean run, on a day when that was rare, losing less than five minutes to finish in a creditable 19th place in Senior Girls. Around half the field, including all of Ella’s ACT teammates, lost time on the first control – a small boulder field hidden in the green, but Aoife Rothery lost less than most and was never placed lower than 26th on her way to 23rd at the finish. Mia Kluth had a rougher start but gradually recovered over the remainder of the course to finish in 25th. Kathrine Maundrell also fell victim to the first control and was unlucky to suffer from numerous near misses in and around the control circles throughout the course, finishing in 31st. Once combined with their strong results from the sprint, the ACT Senior Girls were deserving recipients of third place in the team competition.

Run of the day went to Owen Radajewski, who was the ACT’s only podium placegetter, finishing third Australian and fifth outright in Senior Boys. On a day where most competitors had many time losses Owen made only a single substantial mistake, losing a couple of minutes on the descent to control eight. The approach to number eight also caught out Josh Mansell and Max Walter, but despite this, both Josh and Max improved upon their results from the preceding day, finishing in 34th and 35th place respectively. Max Johnson also very nearly matched his 39th place in the sprint, ending in 40th, having never lost more than a few minutes to mistakes on any control.

Wednesday evening was spent poring over maps, learning from the day’s race, and making strategies for the following day – staying calm and getting to the first control cleanly was a particular point of emphasis.

Thursday 5 October, Schools Championships Relay, Frazzle Rock – Boyayambeliin

Mercifully, the terrain in this section of the map was much more open, with some grassy paddocks breaking up the detailed granite and bare rock sections. Many team members were eager to make amends following some mildly disappointing runs on the previous day.

The ACT Junior classes were a highlight, with national wins in both the boys (Hayden Dent, Oliver Bishop, Matty Maundrell) and girls (Ariadna Iskhakova, Katy Hogg, Mira Walter) classes. The boys were particularly impressive, leading outright from the very first control until the finish. The girls looked like they might match that result when Ariadna came in just one second behind the leader on the first leg, but the two New Zealand drifted up through the pack to take the first two overall places.

The Senior Girls team (Mia Kluth, Ella Hogg, Aoife Rothery) matched their efforts from the individual races to place third out of the Australian teams (sixth outright). This was a close race, with six teams within six minutes sandwiching the ACT team. A trio of solid performances placed the Senior Boys (Max Walter, Josh Mansell, Owen Radajewski) in fourth of the official Australian teams; going to show that you don’t need to be a superhero to get good relay result – just three decent runs. Pleasingly, none of the ACT teams succumbed to the dreaded ‘MP’.

The ACT finished up in third place overall in Australian Schools Championships interstate competition, only one point behind Qld in second. NSW were once again victorious, however the gap to both second and third place teams was considerably closer than at other recent editions. As is usually the case, both NZ teams were well ahead of the Australian teams in the Southern Cross Junior Challenge.
The final Australian Schools Championship standings: NSW 67, Qld 61, ACT 60, Tas 48, SA 34, WA 33, Vic 30.

Runs of the day included:

  • Hayden Dent, who put the ACT Junior Boys team in a strong position early on by setting a leg time that would prove to be the fastest of the day. Oliver Bishop who built upon Hayden’s work setting the quickest second leg time and, not to be outdone, Matty Maundrell brought the team home with the second best third leg time, their combined efforts ensuring the ACT took a commanding win in the class.
  • Ariadna Iskhakova, whose first leg run in the junior girls proved to be the third fastest of anyone in that class.

Saturday 7 October, Australian Championships Long, Avon Valley – Gogular Werdin

Friday’s rest day was spent at Rottnest Island which provided a cool respite to the high temperatures experienced elsewhere in Perth, however there was no escaping the heat at Saturday’s long distance, which reached top of 37 degrees. Thankfully, the organisers brought starts forward by one hour but conditions were still tough, particularly for those with later starts on the longer W/M16 and elite courses.

The varied terrain was well suited to the long distance format, predominantly spur-gully with patches of granite and watercourse detail, a few tracks provided route choice options on the longer courses.

Runs of the day included:

  • Matty Maundrell, second Australian and third outright in M14A.
  • Sanda Halpin, first outright in W14A, not too far ahead of Mira Walter who produced her best ever result at this level to finish in third outright (second Australian).

Sunday 8 October, Australian Championships Sprint, Karbomunup – Christchurch Grammar School and Methodist Ladies College

The map combined two school campuses overlooking the Swan River, each with typically extravagant private school facilities. Courses were technical, making good use of the intricate building details and campus layout. Careful reading of the control circles and descriptions was rewarded, and a multi-level section toward the finish provided an especially tricky map interpretation challenge. As at the ASOC sprint, runners were visible from the arena on several occasions, adding to the pressure of the intense courses.

Runs of the day included:

  • Hayden Dent, second Australian and fourth outright in a close packed M14A field, Matty Maundrell wasn’t far behind in seventh.
  • Ariadna Iskhakova who proved that her ASOC sprint win earlier in the week was no fluke, finishing first Australian and third outright in W14A.
  • Katherine Maundrell, second Australian and fifth outright in the highly competitive W16A class, despite feeling a little under the weather.

ASOC 2023 was another highly successful and enjoyable championship campaign for the ACT schools team. As coach, it was particularly satisfying to witness the development of the team’s orienteering skills, not just over the nine days of the carnival, but in the months of training and preparation leading up to it. All team members demonstrated they have the potential to compete at the highest level of national junior competition and to eventually progress to the elite level, should they choose to do so.

Lastly, a big thank you to the students’ parents for their support of the team, and to the team captains, Ella Hogg and Owen Radajewski, whose mature leadership greatly contributed to the team’s enjoyment and success.

Paul de Jongh
2023 ACT ASOC Team Coach

Photos by Tom de Jongh and Sarah Bruce, 2023 ACT ASOC Team Managers