Virtual racing just the ticket

Zac Tydeman and his best friend, Hayden Bunting, are taking part in the Virtual Cross Country Challenge.
Zac Tydeman and his best friend, Hayden Bunting, are taking part in the Virtual Cross Country Challenge.

When Janet Jagger from Hazelbrook Public School heard about the virtual cross country challenge, she knew that's just what her students needed.

Ms Jagger is responsible for organising the school's sports carnivals which, of course, have been cancelled.

"I know a lot of the students were disappointed so when the email came in ... I thought this looks like some fun kids can have.

"We didn't know how long the lockdown would go on and there was no sign of when competitive sport would come back."

The Great Australian Cross Country Challenge allows students to run their own races but lodge their times online, so competing against each other.

Just as Year 6 students Zac Tydeman and Hayden Bunting have done.

On the first day of the challenge, Zac ran the two kilometres allocated to years 3-6 (younger ones run one kilometre).

The very next day, Hayden ran his race.

With the virtual challenge open until August 31, Ms Jagger can see many more races coming on.

Students can run anywhere - from a bush track to round the school oval or through a park, timing with a mobile or watch. They then upload their results to the website.

People (including parents and staff) can run as many times as they want, trying to beat their best time.

The project has garnered significant support from Olympian and Bullaburra native Ben St Lawrence, who said: "There's no better time to be encouraging children to get out and active to keep both their bodies and minds healthy. The Great Australian Cross Country Challenge is a brilliant initiative that schools all over the country can embrace to encourage regular daily activity while feeling connected to the school and broader community."

The project has been enabled through a major technology partnership with endurance sport platform Race Roster,backed by international sporting heavyweight ASICS.

The tech-led solution allows schools to host their house cups, continue rivalry with other schools across the country and see national champions crowned - all online.

Event organiser Richard Welsh said: "Kids are naturally active, so this provides a framework for them to run or walk, compare themselves to others and keep active right through winter."

Zac's mum, Sally Tydeman, said: "Running and sport is Zac's life. He lives and breathes it every day.

"He was very excited that the Virtual Cross Country came up and even more excited to see his best friend was also competing."

And Hayden's mother, Renee Bunting, said: "Hayden feels the virtual cross country challenge is great because they still get to compete since missing out doing it at school and it keeps him fit and healthy."

Ms Jagger said it will prove a boon to some of her students.

"It's been heartbreaking for them. They've lost their soccer teams, netball, all the things that are fun for primary children."

Perhaps a few more will take up running to join the challenge.

For details and how to register, see www.gaccc.com.au.

Ben St Lawrence. Photo by Tempo Journal

Ben St Lawrence. Photo by Tempo Journal