As seen in a previous blog post, Kalkaringi School hosted an interschool athletics carnival last term. As part of School Sport NT and NT Athletics, there is usually a further competition hosted in Darwin for the top athletes called the NT Championships. Due to coronavirus, however, this was adapted slightly and became the NT Challenge 2020, with athletes from schools and athletics clubs in Darwin, Katherine, and even Alice Springs competing in a three-day athletics competition at the Arafura Stadium. When this opportunity presented itself, Ellie, the Kalkaringi Wanta Director and Sam Clarke from School Sport NT, joined forces to provide an incredibly exciting opportunity to some of Kalkaringi’s top athletes.

The male and female age category winners from year 5, 6, secondary (7-9), and senior (10-12) classes, Ellie, and Brenton, Kalkaringi’s assistant principal, headed off on a jam packed six-day adventure!

After a night stop at Katherine, consisting of a night swim, pizza, and a surprisingly good night’s sleep, we all headed to Darwin. Friday afternoon was spent swimming at the holiday park and on a shopping trip to Casuarina, and saw the start of the athletics competition for the seniors in the evening. Hazron (year 11), Anton (year 9), and Dionika (year 8), competed in their first events for the weekend. They were grateful for the smaller numbers in this evening session as the experience of being at an athletics stadium for the first time was pretty overwhelming, in addition to formalities that come with competing in their first formal competition. Under the Friday night lights, the three high schoolers put their nerves aside, gave it their best shot, and there were all smiles all round. Both Dionika and Anton achieved personal bests, which was impressive enough for the bronze medal for Anton, while Hazron was the star of the show, clearing his own height in the high jump, achieving the gold medal and a personal best of 1.75m! Numerous specialist jump coaches approached Ellie expressing how impressed they were, asking about his experience, and how much they would like to work with an athlete with potential like his! Following this and some networking, the Alice Springs Athletics Club coach promised to look out for Hazron as he potentially moves to central Australia for year 12 next year!

Saturday saw an early rise and all seven athletes beginning their competition. With no expectations going into the weekend and the only intention to provide these kids with the awesome experience of competing on an athletics track at an official meet, the kids and staff alike were stoked as the kids began to pocket medals! Kalkaringi was not shying away from the podium! A trip to Leanyer Recreation Park for a swim and some roast chicken and salad rolls broke up the day nicely, cooling off from the morning’s events in the Darwin humidity, before heading back to the track for another incredibly successful session in the evening. A home cooked pasta carbonara was the perfect fuel for the exciting few days still ahead!

The final athletics events took place Sunday morning. All seven superstar athletes came away from the experience with big smiles and medals, totalling 20 as a team!! Now with exceptional experience in running, jumping, and throwing, the students expressed their excitement to get practising for next year!

As a well-deserved reward for the kids’ incredible behaviour and accomplishments over the weekend, the group jumped in the troopy and headed south. After a quick pitstop at Berry Springs for some lunch (unfortunately no swimming due to bacteria, as we were informed from our new friend, Ranger Bob), they made our way to Wangi Falls in Litchfield National Park. The excitement levels were off the chart, perfectly expressed by year 5 Denniston when the only sentence he could string together was a scream of ‘ELLIE, I LOVE LITCHFIELD AND WANTA. BEST. DAY. EVER.’ as we swam amongst the waterfall and made friends by the rocks.

We were incredibly fortunate to visit Jan, our recently retired year 6 teacher, at her off-the-grid house near Batchelor. As we planned to catch up with her and Prav whilst watching a movie on the new movie truck under the stars, the weather had other ideas. An epic thunderstorm provided our evening entertainment as we devoured a BBQ, before a thankfully dry sleep on the verandah.

On Monday morning, we said our goodbyes and thank yous to Prav and Jan, and drove back into Litchfield NP to tick off another brilliant swim spot, Florence Falls. The kids couldn’t stop talking about how much they loved Litchfield and hope to come back with Wanta on another trip soon!

The Katherine Hotsprings were a hit for our final afternoon of the trip before the long drive back to Kalkaringi on Tuesday morning. A huge thank you to Sam Clarke for her remarkable efforts to organise the athletics registration and logistics, Brenton Hobart for his support on the trip, and most importantly, the kids that were a total credit to their school, parents, community, and Wanta!

Written by Ellie Simmons, Director Kalkaringi Sports Academy.