Watching their older brother compete in orienteering events from a young age, Paraparaumu College sisters Sarah and Jessica Przychodzko were soon hooked themselves.

"Our brother started doing orienteering when he was in Year 9 and we were kind of forced to go along and watch him, then we decided to give it a go," Sarah said.

And the rest is history with both girls coming first in their grade at the Wellington Secondary Schools Orienteering Championships over Queen's Birthday.

Sarah, 17, came first in the Senior Girls Championship and Jessica, 16, came first in the Intermediate Girls Championship.

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Orienteering is a small sport in New Zealand, but big elsewhere in the world.

"You have to orientate yourself through a course by reading a map and using a compass to navigate your way," Jessica said.

Sarah and Jessica Przychodzko.
Sarah and Jessica Przychodzko.

Outside and often in the bush, the sport is both tactical and physical.

"You're trying to find the easiest route to get to each point first," Sarah said.

"There's quite a lot of physical activity too, especially when you get to the higher grades.

"When you're in the forest and you have to run up and down all these hills, it gets up to 6km of running, you definitely have to be fit."

Sarah and Jessica started out in the white grades with their mum helping them out.

Progressing through to yellow, Jessica now competes in the intermediate orange grade with Sarah in the senior red grade.

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"We started out in white with mum. I think she just wanted to comfort us so we didn't get lost," Sarah said.

However the feeling of getting lost and finding your way out of it kept Sarah coming back for more.

"In other countries orienteering is quite a big sport, but in New Zealand no one really does it.

"I like it because it's kind of unique, but it's also about the feel of it.

"I don't really know why but I like getting lost — not on purpose, but being able to find my way back gives me a great feel of accomplishment.

"The longest time I've been out was for over two hours, I had no idea where I was."

With the average race taking around an hour, Sarah had to backtrack, eventually finding her way back to where she had already been.

Using a compass and a map, the girls have learnt the tactical skills on the job and used their fitness from hockey to reach the physical demands of the sport.

"The first couple of times we didn't really know how to do it, but we got some tips along the way from the Onslow College coach and have been to a couple of camps where they teach you how to do it."

After winning the Wellington championships, the girls headed to the North Island Schools Championships over the weekend with Sarah coming in eighth place in the senior girls, just five minutes behind the leader, and Jessica coming 27th in the intermediate girls.

"Orienteering is quite unique and special, not many people actually know about it," Jessica said.

"It's quite cool doing something that not many people have heard of before."