The Whangārei adventure racing team (WARTs) came agonisingly close to victory only to be beaten by their rivals in the Hillary Challenge in Tongariro which finished on Friday.

The eight-member team, made up of students from Whangārei Girls' and Boys' High Schools, finished second in the week-long senior secondary school adventure racing competition by just 31 points, the equivalent of a few minutes in the race, to the team from New Plymouth Girls' and Boys' High School.

The 31-point margin was one of the closest finishes in the event's 19-year history. Both teams have shown their prowess in the competition with the New Plymouth team having won the Hillary Challenge 12 times, while the WARTs team has won it twice.

The two teams were a cut above once again in 2019 with the third-place team from Motueka High School finishing over 900 points behind the top two teams.

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The first two days of the challenge saw teams tackle an array problem-solving tasks which tested their teamwork and communication skills. WARTs excelled in this area which put them at the top of the leaderboard by 170 points.

Blindfolds didn't stop the Northland team from dominating the field in the Hillary Challenge's problem-solving tasks. Photo / Darren Ashmore
Blindfolds didn't stop the Northland team from dominating the field in the Hillary Challenge's problem-solving tasks. Photo / Darren Ashmore

However, the Taranaki team clawed back the advantage over the two-day rogaine and the final multisport day to steal the top spot from WARTs, who came second to the same team in last year's competition.

"It's quite gut-wrenching, putting in all that effort and getting pipped that close to the end," WARTs captain Lochiel Espiner said.

"It's always going to hurt losing like that, but it's still a good result for the team."

Espiner was proud of his troops who out-performed the rest of the 12-team field in the problem-solving tasks and pushed on through the tough two-day expedition.

"The second day [of the rogaine] is always the toughest because you're tired, but everyone just carried on and no one gave up," he said.

While he said it was annoying to lose to familiar faces, Espiner said his team deserved recognition for their efforts, especially the team's navigators, Johnny Wilson and Adyn Dudley.

"We were blown away by how accurate and confident they both were in really dense bush, which is always hard to figure out how to navigate through."

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Five members of the Northland team will leave high school this year leaving only three of this year's team able to participate in next year's competition.