RAY COLLINS: Polding Region Athletic Trials

On Friday I witnessed something that I considered special, when I attended the opening ceremony of the Polding Region Athletic Trials at the Hunter Sports Centre at Glendale.

Last week I wrote about something special when I reported on some unusual circumstances faced by the students of St Mary’s High School Gateshead who were competing in the state finals of the Science and Engineering Challenge. Whilst engaged in a task against Yass High School, the St Mary’s students took the time to assist the Yass team, some of whose members had become unwell. A Yass student later emailed St Mary’s to commend the students who stepped forward to alleviate the stress placed upon her by the unfortunate circumstances. 

On Friday I witnessed something else that I considered special when I attended the opening ceremony of the Polding Region Athletic Trials at the Hunter Sports Centre at Glendale.

Firstly, the weather was awful with driving rain and strong winds greeting the athletes, parents and their families.

Secondly, these athletes come from schools in the dioceses of Wilcannia-Forbes, Bathurst, Armidale, Lismore, Maitland-Newcastle and Broken Bay.

For some, particularly those from the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese, the travel involved is extraordinary.  

There were students present from Hay and Brewarrina. To qualify for this carnival they would have participated in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes Athletic Carnival held in Parkes. For each of them, this would have entailed a round trip of 786 kms and 878 kms respectively or approximately 9 and 11 hours driving. To then travel to Glendale would have entailed for the Hay student a round trip of 1724 kms or approximately 17 hours by car and for the Brewarrina student 1484 kms or 16 hours by car. I was told that the Brewarrina student travelled to both carnivals by the Country Link Rail bus which would have added additional hours to the trip.

I don’t know if they won their respective events but they were very proud to be representing their schools and diocese at such a high level of representation. I also don’t know if they qualified to represent the Polding Region in the NSW Primary Schools Sports Association’s state championships to be held later in the month. You are left with the impression though, that, if they did, they would take it in their stride in relation to the travel required.

What this represents is the incredible commitment staff and students in dioceses such as Wilcannia-Forbes and Armidale make to participate in those school-related activities that take place outside the confines of the school. These include professional development for staff and extra-curricular activities involving both staff and students such as the Performing Arts and Sport. Yet they do it with commitment to their schools and pride in their diocese.

To all the students who competed last week, to their teachers who accompanied them and the many parents and grandparents who travelled such distances, I offer my congratulations for your commitment to the challenges you face on a regular basis.

I also extend my sincere thanks to the many staff members of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle schools and the CSO who officiated at the carnival in wet and cold conditions. To Bernadette Duggan, the carnival convenor, go my special congratulations and thanks for all that is involved in providing these opportunities for hundreds of students from across more than three quarters of the state.


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Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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