Twenty-five students from Ruapehu College endured almost no sleep, an army assault course and some mental challenges in the Longest Day last week.

The Combined Adolescent Challenge Training Unit and Support programme (Cactus) is designed to extend a young person's mind and physical capability, with a focus on teamwork, goal setting, leadership and discipline.

Course leader Senior Constable Lane Demchy and his team of volunteers from the police, college and NZ Army encouraged the students to look and listen before they act and increase their future opportunities.

Over the past 10 weeks, students have been hitting their boot camp style training three days a week, but nothing could prepare them for the notorious Longest Day.


At 3pm on Friday the happy troupe headed off to the army base in Waiouru full of energy and smiles as they settled into their accommodation and went to the pool for a challenge session. As if to lull the students into a false sense of security, the happy series of exercises continued throughout the evening with bedtime declared at 10.30pm.

Anyone who chose to ignore the advice of staff and talk through into the night were rudely awakened to the sound of Eye of the Tiger being blasted out of the stereo with a 3am reveille.

After clearing out the sleeping quarters and warming up in the gym, the intensity of the challenges lifted suddenly with a sprinting beep test and push-ups. Following a quick rest and rehydrate period the teams of Alpha, Bravo and Charlie hit the Longest Day hard.

After a jerry can water resupply and tyre puzzle challenge, each team was tasked with transporting a large power pole up an, at times, narrow Tank Hill track in the dark.

As if the students had undergone a complete personality change, the only noise to be heard was members encouraging each other not to give up.

Back at base it was off to the army assault course - not one that had been set up specially for the students, but the very one used by soldiers for training. For some the physical tiredness was starting to set in and the mental toughness from the previous 10 weeks' training saw team members step up and help their friends complete the challenge.

After a quick breakfast at the college, the teams were transported to the Ohakune Old Coach Rd, where they had to work together to transport a rope, plank and full jerry can from Horopito to Marshalls Rd while completing mental brain-teasers along the way.

By 2pm the laughter returned when a game of fire-hose soccer relieved much of the pain and tension before one final push to the finish. Starting from Conway St, the whole group joined together to pull a fire truck to the finish line outside the college. The hugs of relief and smiles of joy said it all for the 25 who pushed through their own physical pain and mental anguish to complete their Cactus Longest Day.