2017 Kokoda Challenge complete!

Over the weekend of 15 and 16 July, four teams of QAHS students and staff, as well as two QAHS students undertaking the Kokoda Youth Program, with the assistance of their support crews participated in the 96km Kokoda Challenge. Teams were as follows:

Team 1
Brayden Downham
Hyun Seung Kim
Millur Gao
Alan Xue
CAPT Ryschka
Team 2
Jasmine Thach
Isobella Kruger
Maddison Buckley
Leo Li
Mr Ryschka
Team 3
Jacob Milner
Pearl Hoile
Felix Gamble
Mr Egan
Team 4
Rohaan Haikerwal
Akira Judd
Kaito Cole
Heath Cooper
Mr Bernardino
Kokoda Youth Foundation Team
Song Jin Loh
Xocel Rampino-Gallo

Kokoda Challenge complete Montage

This is an activity that makes me immensely proud to be a teacher. To see a group of students commit themselves to an eight month training regime that included three early morning fitness sessions per week and a total of 208km of hiking, and then to see these same students give it their all on an unforgiving track and to succeed in their own way despite adversity, is inspirational. I know that for these students who have now undertaken this challenge, very few difficulties they face in the future will ever seem insurmountable.

“Well it was hard. I think what many of you may be thinking is “What do you gain from Kokoda?” Extrinsically, nothing. Intrinsically, everything. Not to devalue any of the wonderful congratulations we have been very grateful to receive, but glory isn’t really a tangible outcome and realistically cannot drive you for those 96km. No one hands you a dollar for every step you walk. Sure you get a bit fitter but other than that there isn’t really a tangible asset that comes out of your efforts. And the expectation of reward going into The Challenge really was the lesson for me. 

Here at QA we are very ingrained with the mindset that if we do x then we get y. If you do all the homework, study, do practice papers you will get a 7. If you get 7s, get into some good co-curricular stuff, study UMAT, and practise taking an interview, you get into Medicine. And if we get into Medicine many of us believe we will be doing a career that we will love or that will help people or will give you respect or money or x or y or z. There wasn’t a pot of gold buried in the torturous hills of Army Land, nor a scholarship to Harvard, nor a new friend nor answers to the next Mandarin quiz. And that’s just it, we are so expectant of reward, even though the challenges in life nowhere guarantee it and often don’t cause it. 

And nothing can prepare you for these challenges that life will throw at you. All of our training helped and the effort through the last two years undoubtedly allowed us to complete The Challenge. But training can’t tell you you’re tough enough. Only you can. Because you only know when you’re going through it. They’ll tell you the checkpoint is 6kilometres away when it’s 10 or that you’re an hour away when you’re 3. But that’s just it. We don’t get to decide what they are going to throw at us. And the real strength is to grit your teeth and grind it out, discarding expectations of all but yourself. Because life will stand you up and try to sit you down and though, of course there are points of bliss and ecstasy one can’t live exclusively for those moments as they can never make up for that feeling of gradual and grand overcoming.

But what Kokoda does is challenge that mindset. And what it gives you is the confidence that you can and will get through anything but not necessarily get anything and that’s a lesson we can all learn.”
Rohaan Haikerwal – Year 11

“At the end of last year, I decided to undergo The Kokoda Challenge and at the time I didn’t realise the magnitude of the challenge I was undertaking. I still remember the very first hike we did, 7 kilometres at the Numinbah Environmental Centre, and the constant reoccurring thought of “what did I just get myself into.”

This thought was amplified after several months of training in the morning with the rest of the participants at school, multiple long hikes and the confronting preparation presentation, and I had started to develop a large sense of fear for the actual challenge and I realised that even with all the preparation nothing could truly prepare you for the actual challenge.

Many would believe that The Kokoda Challenge is solely a physical challenge, and to an extent that is true, the real challenge is the mental challenge. This is particularly evident when you are walking so slow at 3 am and you start falling asleep to keep going, when you start developing blisters and the only thing you can think about is the pain in your feet and when you aren’t even half way and you begin to doubt yourself and suddenly the pain in your legs is so bad, the only thing that keeps you going throughout all of those events is the mental challenge.

Reflecting on this experience, even with the willpower to keep going no matter what, I wouldn’t have been able to complete this challenge without the training Ms De Vorms prepared for us, all the teachers who gave up their weekends and mornings helping us and training alongside us, and especially to Mr Ryschka who prepared everything for us and made sure that we would have the required physical ability to finish the training, and especially to our amazing support crew who when some of us were on the brink of pulling out, gave us hot food and the motivation to keep going.”
Brayden Downham – Year 11

Mr Dean Ryschka
Sports Coordinator