Whakatane's Trident High School will be waving the Bay of Plenty flag at this year's Genesis Energy Hillary Challenge finals.
The Hillary Challenge is regarded as the toughest teenage outdoor adventure race on the secondary school sporting calendar. From the 60 teams that trialled nationally for this year's event, only 12 made it through the elimination rounds to line up at the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre (OPC) in Tongariro today.
Trident were the top North Island qualifiers for the challenge, claiming the top spot after a comfortable win in rough weather conditions in September last year.
Guest international team, St Leonard's College in Melbourne, is the reigning Australian secondary schools champion.
The intense five-day event starts with 12 one-hour-long problem-solving challenges, testing outdoor skills on land and water. Days three and four involve a 20-hour, 60- to 70- kilometre rogaine/bush navigation challenge, with over 80 checkpoints to find on mountain tracks and valleys.
The final day is a multi-sport challenge of canoeing/kayaking, mountain biking and trail running, over a 50- to 60-kilometre bush course. The teams accumulate points for the time taken and challenges met involving physical fitness, mental acumen and teamwork.
Trident Year 13 student Louise Wotton said the team have learned many lessons during their training for the Hillary challenge.
"Over the past year we have worked hard, training up to 5-6 times a week, with many early morning starts and long weekend expeditions," Wotton said.
"There have been some definite highlights. We have become a really tight-knit team, become good friends, and also have a good relationship with our coach, Nigel Rowland, who met with us most mornings at 7am before school, and put in a tremendous amount of effort to get us to where we are now."
She said, as a team, there had been many trips together, to Thames, National Park, and overnight expeditions around the local area.
"This has also developed our fitness drastically and we have improved and come a long way from where we started. The most important highlight for us is definitely watching our team evolve, and becoming stronger and gaining experience."
Wotton described the Hillary Challenge as a huge, life changing journey for the team.
"But the biggest part is still to come as we look forward to competing in the finals this week, when everything will come into place."