Four teams comprising 19 students and staff from St Mary’s College have completed the 52km Kokoda Challenge on the Gold Coast, for the second year in a row.
Set in the hinterlands, the trail is made up of steep climbs, winding trails and very cold conditions.
Coordinated by the Defence Transition Mentor Christina Page, the Challenge again tested the participants emotionally and physically, even though conducted in fine conditions this year. This was a far cry from conditions for the 2017 Challenge when torrential rain did not ease up for the 24 hour duration of the walk.
After a selection process and months of training, participants headed off at 11am on Saturday, the 14th of July, both nervous and excited not knowing how gruelling the Challenge would be.
Ms Page said she was proud that girls as young as 14 dug deep and pushed through fatigue, leg cramps, headaches, exhaustion and blisters.
“I was relieved this year that we didn’t experience lightning and thunder, but each challenge presents its own trials. It was very much a team effort this year and I am proud that we all got across the finish line,” stated Mrs. Page.
Student and participant Alexa Murrin said the encouragement of the “Mighty Mary’s” cheer squad at checkpoint 8 and 11 helped the team to soldier on.
“The support crew members were phenomenal. With their hot meals, massages and guidance, we prevailed,” stated team member Alexa Murrin.
“Without an amazing support crew, we could not have completed the Challenge,” added Miss Murrin.
After approximately 14 hours, the last checkpoint could not be found. Challenge officials explained that they had to extend the distance from between the second last and last checkpoints unbeknown to competitors.
This was extremely challenging as each hill was conquered the checkpoint was not in sight. Each glimmer of light was a dashed hope as the walkers learned that it was only competitors head torches.
Deputy Principal and participant Marcus Richardson said despite the team having “nothing left in their tank” as they came across yet another hill, they looked to their team mates crying in pain but not complaining and shared a moment before beginning the final climb.
“The Kokoda Challenge is truly a testimony of mateship, determination and teamwork,” Mr Richardson said.
In just 15 hours and 36 minutes every participant and team mate crossed the finish line, shouting proudly “SMC, SMC”.
The team, who was proudly sponsored by Eadies Mechanical and TAE Aerospace will donate every dollar raised towards youth programs and the kids that participate in them.