Southern Cross University staff tackle trek

Published 21 July 2008

Southern Cross University staff were among almost 1200 competitors who took part in the Kokoda Challenge held over the weekend in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

Four teams from all three campuses of the University gamely took on the gruelling 96 km challenge that began early on Saturday morning and went on throughout the night and late into Sunday afternoon.

Southern Cross University is a sponsor and the education partner of the event which raised just under $300,000 for the youth leadership and development initiative, the Kokoda Challenge Youth Program. The event was won by the Nike Hammer team who completed the course in 11 hours 54 minutes.

Chairman of the Kokoda Challenge Doug Henderson said that the support of Southern Cross University was appreciated.

“SCU’s financial support is critical to the success of the event, but it is more than that – the University also conducts a series of important evaluation fitness tests on the Kokoda Kids that help us to monitor and establish their level of fitness throughout the program,”said Doug.

While attempting such a punishing physical and emotional challenge is not for the faint-hearted, Jak Carroll, co-ordinator of the Diploma of Sport Management (Surfing Studies) course at Tweed campus and second time Kokoda Challenge finisher said the camaraderie between the participants was strong.

“When you are battling the cold, fatigue and hunger there are moments of complete and utter despair,” said Jak.

“It was those times when the mateship and support from team mates was critical – we helped each other along.”

The Southern Cross University teams suffered injuries forcing some team members to withdraw, with eight of the sixteen participants from the University eventually making it across the finishing line.

The fastest of the Southern Cross University teams to finish was the Hikers who completed the course just after 10am on Sunday morning with a time of 27 hours. The SCU Hikers also managed the significant achievement of finishing the course with all four team members – a feat usually achieved by less than half of all competitors in the event.

Steve McFarlane of the Ramblers followed the Hikers to the finish line at 3pm on Sunday, completing the course despite losing the rest of his team to illness and injury.

The Wanderers of the Coffs Harbour campus of the University crossed the line at 4pm on Sunday, clocking up a total walking time of 33 hours. Theirs was a particularly heroic effort with the team battling injuries, and Health and Human Sciences lecturer Dianne Hutchinson taking on hills backwards because of knee pain.

The teams will meet in the coming weeks to celebrate their achievements, and there will be a formal presentation at the Kokoda Challenge dinner later in the year.

SCU staff who took part in the Kokoda Challenge were Dianne Hutchinson, Emma Palmer, Lisa Caswell, Ruben Hillier, Felicity Abotomey, Robert Baglin, Jak Carroll, Val Morrison, Trina Collinge, Steve Cooper, Kazia Lombardo, Steve McFarlane, Cameron Phillips, Aaron Silk, Trevor Davey, Louise Timberlake.

A number of other staff, including Renee Valk, Jill Dombrow, Carol Laskey and Jan Murphy, acted as support crew for the event.

Photo: (L-R) Dianne Hutchinson, Emma Palmer and Ruben Hillier finish their epic journey. (High resolution image available on request.)

Media contact: Zuleika Henderson media officer, Southern Cross University Tweed Gold Coast Campus: 07 5506 9385 or 0408 644533