State Leagues 14 & 15 and NSW Schools Championships Event Report

SHOO had a cracker of a weekend lined up, coordinating with 3 State League events in 2 days. Naturally, we decided to make it harder, and overlay the NSW Schools Championships over these as well. Consequently, every even was both a State League and a Schools Championship, which made for a busy weekend.

Thank you SHOO!

In case you haven’t noticed, running orienteering events is not a simple, easy feat, particularly on this scale. Our first point of business is to say thank you to our enormous pool of SHOObies who supported the events. From old to new, young to old, it was genuinely inspiring to see our Club come together to successfully coordinate 3 top-level events. From the start line marshals who stood out in the freezing cold for hours, to mappers, course-setters, parking marshals, control placers (and retrievers), computers, sweeps, coaches, photographers, there were so many roles to fill, and never an empty space.

We want you to know that we appreciate everyone giving of themselves (and sometimes their opportunity to participate) to enable so many kids to have a great orienteering experience. You were friendly, professional, and always willing to jump in - all of the things that make SHOO such a great (and growing) club.

Special thanks to Lyn for overseeing the entire event, and everyone who filled specialised roles in the lead-up, like Robert Spry, Peter Meyer, Garry and Sandy etc.

Some stats

Rather than re-cap each event individually, here are some stats to show the magnitude of what we achieved together at the 3 events across Oxley College (sprint), Tudor House (sprint) and Welby (middle distance):

  • 62 schools were represented from across NSW (the furthest was from Cootamundra)

  • 723 runs in the 3 State League events, and 450 runs in the schools champs, which is over 1,100 runs in total - huge!

  • As far as we know, 0 serious injuries or critical incidents (well, one girl got lost at Welby, but she found herself)

  • Hardly any complaints or grumbling (which is saying something, coming from orienteers!

Results

The results from the State League events are available on Eventor (Oxley, Tudor House, Welby).

The School Championships results are as follows:

Primary school champions

  1. Mowbray Primary School: 17 points

  2. Camden South Primary School: 15 points

  3. North Rocks Primary School: 12 points

Secondary Schools champions

  1. Knox Grammar: 38 points

  2. Warners Bay High School: 12 points

  3. William Clark College: 11 points

Region champions

  1. Combined Independent Schools: 179 points

  2. Sydney North Region: 154 points

  3. South West Region: 98 points

  4. Sydney South West Region: 75 points

How safe is orienteering? Getting lost, getting found, and everything in-between

Over the weekend SHOO hosted NSW State Leagues 14 & 15 and the NSW Schools Championships.

The NSW Schools Championships offer event organisers some unique challenges. The Middle Distance event sends students of varying levels of skill and experience out into a high-quality bushland orienteering area. This poses navigational challenges and risks beyond in-school sprint events (where the courses are often bound by fences and roads), and in order to provide a good experience for students, we take extra steps to minimise risks and maximise enjoyment.

An orienteering approach to “being lost”

If you need it, there’s a team there…

If you need it, there’s a team there…

At Sunday’s Middle Distance event, SHOO had a chance to test these extra risk and safety procedures when a student on the Moderate course “got lost” (we don't call it getting lost - we say 'geographically embarrassed’). The truth is, in a sport that is about challenging navigation, you are often somewhat uncertain of where you are. However, the scope of this is usually metres (or tens of metres), rather than kilometres. This is not the same as being “lost”, which means that you don’t know where you are, and you don’t know how to get out, you don’t have nearby support, and are distressed as a result.

Orienteering is a sport about problem-solving, and we believe in learning the skill of re-orientation in order to continue with a course or self-extract yourself safely. We actively teach how to “find yourself” once you lose contact with the map and the terrain - even my 6 year-old knows to “go back to the last point and start again”.

Planning for safety

Around this individual skill and resilience, event organisers are always planning for safety, while allowing for a challenging, real-world navigation experience. This often includes:

  1. Establishing course and map boundaries - Making sure there are features which distinguish the “edge” of the map, which participants know not to cross. This often includes fences, roads and rivers. On the weekend, our course was a bushland triangle bound by a large highway, houses and a river.

  2. Having a course cut-off time, so that no one is out too long before anyone comes looking for them. Our electronic timing equipment allows us to see participants who haven’t “checked in” at the end. This is why we collect mobile phone numbers and car registration information at the start - we want to check if you’ve actually come out and left without us knowing.

  3. Matching participants to appropriate courses/skill levels. As many newcomers to our events will attest, we often start you on “easy” or “very easy” courses, even if they are too easy for you. This way we can be sure that you have some of the foundational skills to step up to harder courses safely and with minimal distress.

  4. Providing each participant with an emergency whistle. Three blasts on this, and every orienteer in the vicinity will come a-running!

  5. Having experienced orienteers allocated to “sweeping” or “search”, should it be required.

It’s worth saying that the need to “sweep” or rescue are actually very rare at events, and escalating past a basic search almost never happens.

It’s worth saying that the need to “sweep” or rescue are actually very rare at events, and escalating past a basic search almost never happens. In the vast majority even the shiniest newbies either finish their course, or navigate their way back in when they feel out of their depth. If there is time, we’ll normally take them back out with some support to help them learn for next time.

The search

At Sunday’s event, a course sweep was sent out earlier than usual to catch any school students and bring them in. We did this to minimise any distress, and to support them to finish their courses if possible. Across the two main courses everyone came back in fine, some having been supported back in by the sweep.

While the last students were coming in, it became clear that a student on the Moderate course (not yet swept) had been out for a longer time than expected. A sweep went out with her parents to start a search (all orienteering clubs have a formal search procedure to follow) of the course area. Along the way, the sweep collected information from orienteers in the field who had seen her, and activated a network of competitors who would keep an eye out, and bring her in if necessary. Orienteering is a family, and we’re all very protective of our members, even when there’s glory on the line!

We were able to narrow down our search area with where she had last been seen. The sweep acted as mobile search coordinator, communicating via phone with the assembly area, and delegating to several other searchers. After approximately 45 minutes of searching with 3 search parties, the student reported back in to the finish area, having completed her course (now that’s resilience!).

We were completely glad that she was ok, and proud that she finished (as was she). She had actually strayed off the map, but realised and came back. She re-oriented herself, and was able to finish. As a club, we got to test out some rarely-used procedures, and keep our unblemished safety record.

Special thanks to selfless orienteers

A huge contributor to the success of a search is intel and support from orienteers in the field. SHOO would like to thank all of the orienteers who paused in the middle of one of NSW’s most competitive events to provide information, check the significance of the single-blast whistle that was being used, or keep an eye out for the student. Dean, the sweep, appreciated it every time. This moving web of eyes and information is our most valuable safety asset during events, but it only works if everyone piroritises contributing.

Highlands Forest Series #3 Event Report

There's a standing joke that when I organise an event, it will rain, probably lots. This joke is not entirely unfair - one year we lost our start/finish point when it flooded - what was an oval was, quite literally, a 6-foot deep lake by finish time. Another year we had six thunder/lightening storms roll across in 2 hours. I like to think that the world is helping me to bump up the difficulty if my events, and cater to only the most adventurous of orienteers. True to form, it rained all Sunday for our HFS #3 at William Howe Regional Park, Mount Annan, and I'd like to thank everyone who still came out to make my course-setting worthwhile. As orienteers, we love being out in the world, and sometimes that means in the rain. And the bad part is the getting wet, once you're wet it's lots of fun.

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We had 41 starting competitors, which is outstanding for such a wet day! If I can have a moment of pride - 22 of these were SHOO runners - it's such a pleasure to see such great local turn-outs at our club events - it's very rewarding as a course-setter to know that you're getting to challenge lots of SHOO members.

The full event results can be found on eventor.

My special notes from the day:

  1. The Bara (mums) group for persisting all the way to the end and finishing their course. I'm not sure why the results say that you didn't finish, but I'll testify that you did! 

  2. Sophie and Abbey for two courses! Epic (once you worked out the confusing needle 😉)

  3. The Kontos family (first-timers) for a great mind-set in the rain, and flashing around the course so much quicker than I expected! 

  4. Liz and Helen for battling it out in a very close Women's Moderate - it's great to see you both developing.

  5. John McGann for completing a marathon the day before, a long run, and orienteering - giving him over 60km in two days.

  6. Brian Carter for a come-back of epic proportions - appearing from the rain after years in the wilderness, and taking out the Men's Short Hard! 

  7. Angus for winning Men's Hard, and Craig for doing a solid job of nearly chasing him down.

Thanks also to all of my helpers on the day, especially Doug, Craig and Robert for bringing in controls. See you all at Appin next month!

Highlands Forest Series 2: Event results and report

A much-loved fixture on the Australian orienteering calendar, the The Highlands Forest Series aims to give new and experienced orienteers a fun and challenging bushland navigation experience ('true' orienteering - it's where we came from!).

Event 2 was head at Stingray Swamp, a part of Penrose State Forest. It was a re-make of an old map (we had to wait for the trees to grow back!), done by one of our clubs expert mappers, Robert Spry.

We saw 64 runners head out into the bush, and what a SHOO turn-out! 26 SHOO-ites came out to run, and it's such a pleasure to see a mix of old and new duking it out for places. Special mention to the Shedden and Zids kids (lol!) who keep popping up at tops of their divisions, and to all of our newer club members and families who are developing really well (such as the Murrays and Brays, John McGann, Craig Roach, and Michele Jackson). 

Thanks to Robert for a great event, and for saving an old map, and to Angus for helping him ably on the day, and also to everyone who stayed to bring controls in.

Full event results can be seen on Eventor.

Highlands Forest Series 1: Event Report and Results

A much-loved fixture on the Australian orienteering calendar, the The Highlands Forest Series aims to give new and experienced orienteers a fun and challenging bushland navigation experience ('true' orienteering - it's where we came from!).

Event 1 was head at Soapy Flat, just out of Mittagong. It's a notoriously tricky map with some very flat, indistinct areas which always managed to trip up some competitors (cough, normally me!).

We saw 62 runners head out into the bush, and some great orienteers were on show, with Alastair George and Duncan Currie both visiting before they compete for Australia at JWOC in July. Alastair won the Men's Long Hard, wit Doug Jay the highest placed SHOO runner in 5th.

In other divisions:

  • Bigfoot's Paula Shingler won the Women's Long Hard, with Ruth Shedden in 5th;

  • Garingals Serje Robidoux smashed the Men's Short Hard by over 10 minutes, with Ben Cummins in 3rd;

  • Nea Shingler won the Women's Short Hard, with a gap of 23 minutes to the next competitor;

  • In a strange turn of events, there was no winner in the Men's Moderate, with both competitors mis-punching;

  • Women's Moderate saw Niamh Cassar zip around the course, with Kristie Carroll in a respectable 3rd. Oh, and Liz is still in a moon boot because of this course (thanks Garry!);

  • In the Men's Easy, Rory Shedden was hot on the heels of the winner, Aco Stamenkovski;

  • In the Women's Easy, SHOO's Michele Jackson put in a great run to come second in behind Uringa's Hebbat Veschambre;

  • SHOO's newest, Ben Zids took out his first win in the Men's Very Easy - well done Ben!

Full event results can be found on Eventor.

Kid's Club

A reminder that at each HFS event we will also have a kid's club/development program to allow the kids to have some fun with bush orienteering. Parents can hang around and help out/supervise, or head out on their own orienteering adventure.

The first kid's club for the season started great (check out the pic below), and the kids put in some solid runs as a result. Can't wait to see everyone at Stingray Swamp!

SOS #1 Event Results and Report

SOS-Macarthur was held on Saturday 9 March at Narellan Vale Public School.

Another top area with fine art murals, a large area and many buildings to navigate around.

Thanks to the school for the venue, Lyn and Neville for the map, Elizabeth and Georgia for an early start set up and to the rest of the Bold Horizons and SHOO Orienteering team for running the event.

Results are on eventor or see the post with photos on our Facebook page.