Well done 2016 QAHS Scrambled Legs!

On the weekend of the 16-17 July, four students and one teacher upheld the QAHS tradition of honouring the Australian soldiers who fought and died in the Kokoda Track Campaign of the Second World War by participating as the QAHS Scrambled Legs in the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge. Ray Feng, Aly Debevec-Kruse, Thomas Sheppard, Sean Ciancio Gayler and Mr Dean Ryschka hiked 96kms through the Gold Coast Hinterland and crossed the finish line as a team in 29 hours. The combination of unpredictable terrain, inclement weather, and personal ailments tested each team member’s mental and physical fortitude, and allowed all team members to appreciate the sacrifices of those brave Australian men who endured that page in history from which this challenge draws its name.

The failure rate for this challenge is approximately 20%. In spite of this and the potential for injury, Ray, Aly, Thomas and Sean chose to take the risk and undertake this 96km challenge. In order to prepare for this challenge, the team progressed through a rigorous training regime that included nine training hikes totalling a distance of 140kms over a period of approximately 38 hours. The regime also included a program of gym work devised by Ms DeVorms that focussed on building core strength and muscular endurance. This training regime commenced in early March and continued every week until the week prior to the challenge with no break during school holidays. Ray, Aly, Thomas and Sean needed to find a balance with their studies and social lives in order to complete this often demanding training regime. Additionally, the challenge itself enabled each team member to demonstrate what it means to be caring by considering the needs of team members who encountered a range of ailments. These issues further enabled team members to reflect upon what it means to be a principled team member as opposed to an individual. That is, a team member who values the team goal over personal aspirations.

The success of the 2016 QAHS Scrambled Legs team is due in a large part to the tireless efforts of their support crew. Emily Lin, Kelly Lin, So Hyun Lee, Lois Livingstone, Claire Livingstone, Yohan Choi, Nathan Xue, Michael Chen, Raymond Tram, Neeraj Bhatnagar, Asim Rais, Patricia Madronio, Hasinah Khan and John Yoon exhibited their caring qualities through communicating with the challengers at each major checkpoint to ensure that they had both the physical and psychological support needed to continue with the challenge. Furthermore, resource planning required support crew members to critically think about which resources were required and how best to support each challenger.

The participation of QAHS in the 2016 Kokoda Challenge raised a total of $1,110.90 for the Kokoda Youth Foundation.

Students share their Kokoda experience:

“I am certain the 2016 Stan Bisset Cup 96km Kokoda Challenge was a valuable experience for all who attended, including the challengers, support crew and the peers/family of the attendees. Being one of the challengers, I definitely feel I have learned many important lessons throughout this challenge. Being unfortunately affected by sickness during the challenge I realized the true potential of support and focus. Starting the walk on mere flat roads, after 5km, I was extremely close to succumbing to my gastroenteritis and giving up however, my team whole-heartedly supported me and gave me the inspiration to carry on until another checkpoint. Before long, I realized that I began to conquer tall hills, rough terrain, monotonous windy tracks, slippery and muddy slopes, wet creeks and even nearly 90 degree mountains. Throughout the walk, I forgot all the pain and nausea and put all my focus into reaching the next checkpoint, it was until then (at the checkpoint) that my team and support crew replenished my motivation gave me that extra push to reach the next. Without the strong yet warm arms of all the support our team received (even including the heart-warming texts we received during our walk), it certainly would have been very difficult to complete the challenge. By acknowledging the tough conditions and earned accolades of past soldiers, we dedicated our efforts to them and without my friends, family and peers, I would have never even attempted this challenge and I am forever grateful for the opportunity they have provided me to reach a level of personal fulfillment.” – Ray Feng, Scrambled Legs Member

“The Kokoda challenge was filled with many hardships, determination and joy. For those who aren’t aware of the event, the Gold Coast Kokoda Challenge is a gruelling, cross country 4-person team held over 96km. By being consistent and committed to vigorous training, Mr Ryschka, Thomas Sheppard, Aly Debevec, Ray Feng and Sean Ciancio-Gayler were brave enough to take on this challenge and completed it to the very end. With the help of fellow support crew members, we were able to aid in their needs at various checkpoints throughout the walk. The support crew assisted in providing food, first aid and motivation. Throughout the journey, the walkers stayed as a team and finished as a team.” – Michael Chen, Support Crew

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“For me, participating in the 2016 96km Kokoda challenge was an amazing opportunity that allowed me to develop a better understanding of not only my physical but also my psychological boundaries, and how far I can really push myself. It also enabled me to fully comprehend the importance of teamwork, and what it really means to be apart of team. It was a life changing experience that I would absolutely do again, and I definitely recommend it to anyone up for a challenge.” – Aly Debevec-Kruse, Scrambled Legs Member

“The Kokoda challenge was not only a challenge for the walkers but for the support crew as well. I believe the experience in support crew has motivated me to take up the challenge in my life as it is not only a physical adventure but one which tests the extremes of our mentality. Kokoda is not only an experiment of physical strength but a mental game of the human mind. Being in the support crew I decided to ensure that at each major checkpoint the challengers felt rejuvenated and ready to continue.  To do this I did everything I could to fulfil their requests, even at the expense of my own comfort. But as the saying goes, progress takes sacrifice. Regardless, I believe that I fulfilled my role as the support crew and gave the members as much care as I could. Initially I was going to partake the challenge, however the positions were taken.  I was highly motivated to help them in conquering the treacherous 96 km walk. Ray especially demonstrated exceptional perseverance as he was very sick throughout the walk and had threw up a few times. Also Mr Ryschka was a perfect mental standpoint for the students to look up to, as he was fierce and bold, perhaps the thrusting force of the team. Aly was independent and had great experience with many of Kokoda’s challenges. Thomas was a pure beast and pushed through the challenge while ignoring the conditions in which he was placed in. Sean on the other hand seemed to humour the group in that his personality was amusing throughout the challenge. In conclusion, Kokoda has shown to bring out our true selves and test how we apply our skills, thinking and will to help others, as individuals and as a team. – Neeraj Bhatnagar, Support Crew

“On the 16-17 July an incredible event had taken place that I will probably remember for most of my life. It was a pretty memorable weekend, I can tell you. The Kokoda Challenge; one of the most well respected, toughest, mentally exhausting challenges to be created, oh and let’s not forget physically debilitating. And I had taken part in it. Ha, no! I was support crew, and that was just as exhausting as a 96km walk. 29 hours, give or take, of walking, climbing, swimming, in the cases of some (Sean, Ray), and battling the sodden weather. Aly Debevec- Kruse, Sean Ciancio Gayler, Ray Feng, Thomas Sheppard, and Gandalf (well at least that’s who he looked like with his giant wooden walking/hiking stick) A.K.A Mr Ryschka had completed the 96km Kokoda Challenge. I must say they were the best team ever to wait on; they had cooperated, smiled and had just rolled with it. They never complained, stuck with each other through thick and thin, and had even managed to joke around with the support crew at the check points. They had done amazingly, demonstrating the Kokoda ethos: endurance and mateship. I was on the support crew, so I can only mention the happenings at the checkpoints, but it was an experience nonetheless. We had a three group rotation. Emily and Kelly Lin, Clair and Lois Livingstone and So Hyun Lee were part of the morning group; Mr Debevec, Mr Sheppard and I had been there the entire time, with Neeraj Bhatnagar and Raymond Tram joining for the last 4 checkpoints. The group had brought little snacks, and had even created some packs for the walkers to take; which included food, pictures (memes) and little notes to keep them going. Despite walking 30km already, the team were okay and after a quick check up and food, had left again. As it got darker the weather worsened, but both teams, support and trekkers, took it in stride and carried on. The 2nd group included Patricia Madronio, Raymond Tram, Neeraj Bhatnagar, John Yoon, Asim Rias and myself.  

The first checkpoint was calm; the boys had brought more first aid supplies and food, as well as posters with little motivational letters on the back. Asim and Neeraj massaged the trekkers’ feet, while John and Raymond had managed the food. The adults, Patricia and I had refilled backpacks and overall made sure things ran smoothly. The second checkpoint for the group was harsh and probably one of the hardest points in the entire experience, personally. It was cold, windy and coming up to midnight. I was tired and cold, but with a bit of Patricia’s coffee I was okay. We continued the routine and had sent the trekkers on their way. We also said goodbye to Patricia and Asim. A restless 20 minute sleep and a few hours of waiting later, the second last checkpoint had arrived. By now I had felt the utmost respect for not only the trekkers but for Mr Debevec and Mr Sheppard, who had willingly given up their weekend to help their children complete one of the hardest journeys of their lives. It was now the last checkpoint of the experience and the last group had arrived: Yohan Choi, Michael Chen, Raymond Tram and Nathan Xue. It was now that the team were really struggling, but with soup, a cup of noodles and some sweet potato they were on their way to the finish line. And they finished. Just like that, and it was over—and what a proud moment it was for the trekkers and support crew! It was an experience and should be considered as something to participate in, in the future. Congratulations to the team and thank you for helping me with CAS, oh, and the experience was pretty cool too.” – Hasinah Khan, Support Crew


Mr Dean Ryschka
Business/Mandarin Teacher, Sport Coordinator