AT least five Catholic schools fielded teams in this year’s gruelling Kokoda Challenge in the Gold Coast hinterland.
Since its inception in 2005 the event, requiring participants to complete a 96km or 48 km course, has grown to attract more than 3000 participants annually.
The Gold Coast course covers 96km- the distance of the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea – starting in Mudgeeraba and following fire trails and paths through Austinville, Springbrook, Numinbah Valley, Beechmont, Clagiraba and finishing at Nerang Velodrome.
Fundraising efforts from the participants are the main source of money for the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program (KCYP).
There is a 39-hour time limit allowed for completion of the course in honour of the 39th Militia, the first Australian Troops to step foot on the Kokoda Track but most teams finish under that time.
This year Gold Coast schools St Michael’s College, Carrara, and Aquinas College, Ashmore, returned to the challenge with a number of teams in the 48km Jim Stillman Cup, named after 89-year-old 39th Militia soldier Jim Stillman who lives locally.
They were joined for the first time by a team from Our Lady of the Southern Cross College, Dalby.
The Jim Stillman event requires schools to field five-member teams of four students and one teacher, with 100 teams competing in the 2011 Cup.
Aquinas Senior Boyz was the first Catholic school team to finish the 48km in a time of 7 hours 53 minutes and 43 seconds.
Our Lady of the Southern Cross teacher Tamara Niemeyer said she and the school’s team of four Year 12 girls had trained a couple of times in the Bunya Mountains but, with a full term prior to the event, preparation was left up to individuals.
“I think it ends up being determination that gets you over the finish line,” she said.
“The mud and the cold were challenges. You ended up sliding down some of the hills and by the end we hated going down the hills more than going up.”
Ms Niemeyer said the Dalby school was likely to be back next year.
“There has been a very keen interest about next year,” she said.
Two St Michael’s College team, along with St Laurence’s College, set their sights on the full 96km Stan Bisset challenge.
The Stan Bisset Cup is named in honour of decorated Kokoda veteran Stan Bisset who died last year.
St Laurence’s teacher Adam Stokes said he and the four Year 11 “Lauries” boys’ months of training culminated in the team crossing the finish line together in a time of 26 hours 43 minutes, giving them 13th place out of a field of 41 teams.
“We started training about March going to Mt Coot-tha of an afternoon running up and down,” he said.
“This is the first time we’ve taken part and it has created a lot of interest around the college so next year we are hoping to field more teams.”
It was the third year in a row that St Michael’s College has competed in the challenge and the second year it has fielded a team in the 96km event.
St Michael’s staff member Camille Edye, who led the team to finish third in the 96km Stan Bisset Cup in a time of 21 hours 3 minutes, said the college fielded 11 teams. She said it was great to see young people challenging themselves and having a go.
The second St Michael’s team in the Stan Bisset Cup, “the Fairweathers”, finished eighth in a time of 25 hours 32 minutes.
Four staff members from Villanova College, Coorparoo, took on the open Kokoda Challenge supported in their fundraising by fellow staff and students.
They finished in 23 hours 44 minutes.
Also competing in the open event was Catholic Leader sub-editor Matt Emerick who, along with three mates, completed the 96km just over 24 hours.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.