News & Updates

13 December 2022 • Community

Owairaka AC embraces orienteering collaboration

Some members of a national U23 orienteering camp got the opportunity last weekend to feature in the Owairaka 5000m PB Challenge. Credit: (Owairaka AC).

Owairaka AC has gone into partnership with Auckland Orienteering Club in a cross-code arrangement with the intention of aiding the growth and vibrancy of both clubs.

Given the running component of orienteering – which uses navigational skills via a map and compass to move from point to point – a natural synergy exists between the two sports, so when Auckland Orienteering Club (AOC) President Neill McGowan approached Owairaka AC it seemed like a natural fit.

“We already had a bit of a connection between the two clubs, AOC Lead Coach Kieran Woods trains a group on the Owairaka track two or three times a week,” explains Neill. “Many sports in the current landscape are struggling to retain members and we saw it as a good opportunity to find that interlock between two codes in an effort to expand interest both ways. There is the potential that some kids attending the Wednesday night sessions at Owai could become future orienteering champions and likewise some kids who do orienteering might excel at athletics.”

Owairaka AC committee member Nick Moore echoed this viewpoint adding: “When Neill approached us, we were keen to jump on board. The partnership potentially brings new athletes to our sport, and it also gives the chance for our members to get a taste of orienteering too.”

The partnership has been in place since earlier this year and has added value to both clubs. Nick says several Auckland Orienteering Club members have signed up to Owairaka while AOC sees a close affiliation between the two clubs can help add a vital component to his members skill base.

“There are three elements to orienteering – the mental, the physical and the technical – and a key element to that triangle is the physical,” adds Neill. “The faster and fitter you are the better your brain can operate around the course. To train at the club offers a greater awareness of seeing kids perform well and we hope will act as a motivation for them to run quicker.”

The connection between the two clubs has broadened so that last weekend during a national U23 orienteering training camp, the two clubs co-created a 5000m Challenge, inviting athletes who are attending the camp.

Owairaka provided the pacemakers to help the orienteers achieve their goal times with Nick saying: “The challenge was a good opportunity to get orienteers en masse to the track. As a time trial it gave them the chance to see how fast they can run without a map. For us, the event is fun and about community engagement in a non-threatening environment. You never know, someone in that orienteering group could have the potential to become a middle or long-distance champion.”

More collaboration between the two clubs is planned for the future. AOC is mapping the local area around Owairaka AC and will offer a have-a-go orienteering day to Owairaka AC club members. Cross promotion between both clubs have become commonplace with talk that the U20 women in AOC could be keen in entering a team in next year’s New Zealand Road Relay Championships. Discounted rates on membership have been offered between the clubs.

Another initiative planned is that Auckland Orienteering Club will do a one-off volunteer takeover of the Owairaka Park Run next year to help introduce more of its members to running.

“It is a strong cross-code relationship with the aim that over time we’ll end up with a bunch of people from athletics joining our club and vice-versa. We think it’s a pretty cool initiative,” adds Neill.

Athletics NZ Community Manager Hamish Meacheam views the partnership as a Sport NZ Strengthen and Adapt project and he adds: “Both Athletics NZ and Orienteering NZ are very excited and supportive of this collaboration. Christo Peters, (the General Manager of Orienteering New Zealand) and myself see this as a great potential first step to bring our sports closer together.”