Written By: Dominic Dakin (L6)
Back in November, 3 Birkdalians travelled to Witton Country Park in Blackburn to compete in the British Schools Orienteering Championships 2018. They were part of a 100-strong contingent from other Sheffield Primary and Secondary Schools, most of whom travelled together in two coaches.
All 3 pupils (Samuel Taylor – S1, Matthew Morris – S3, Dom Dakin – L6) put in strong performances in their respective categories, competing against competent orienteers from all over the country, with some competitors travelling from as far afield as Devon and East Anglia. The competition area consisted of a mix of woodland and open parkland, and with large hills on the area, it made for tough, physical courses.
The biggest surprise of the day was that the small but select Birkdale team of 3 managed to come 3rd in the Small Secondary category, earning them some well-deserved medals and chocolates!
The previous day, Dom competed at the World Schools qualification race, in the hope of bring selected for the English team heading to Estonia in April. The event was being held on one of the best areas in England outside of the Lake District; Tockholes is mainly extremely “runnable” woodland (no undergrowth), with intricately contoured slopes including old mine workings, making for challenging courses with fast winning times. Sure enough, leading times for the 6km course soon fell below 40 mins, with Dom finishing in 38 mins, but it was a nervous wait until all other competitors had finished to see if he had been fast enough to be selected. Fortunately, in the end he came a very close (50 secs!) 2nd, and with top 2 guaranteed a place on the plane, he’ll be jetting off next year to compete at the World Schools Orienteering Championships, alongside under-18s from countries all over the globe.
In orienteering, competitors must use a specially produced map to navigate between controls (checkpoints), and are timed using a special electronic chip which records their visit to the controls, as competitors all start at different times. Events can be held on all sorts of terrain – including moorlands, forests, mountains and cities. The running speed is similar to that of cross country – but with the additional challenge of navigating accurately between controls.
To find out more about orienteering, you can visit the website of South Yorkshire Orienteers, who amongst other things hold events targeted at newcomers to the sport in Sheffield’s parks on Saturday afternoons: www.southyorkshireorienteers.org.uk
We’d love to see more people join the Birkdale Orienteering Team!