Gympie team conquers 96km Kokoda challenge
VICTORY College principal Johannes Solymosi and four of his students overcame blisters, fatigue and sleep deprivation to complete the 2015 Kokoda Challenge in the Gold Coast hinterland last weekend.
The July 18-19 event started from Firth Park at Mudgeeraba and teams negotiated 96km, including a staggering 5000m of vertical ascent.
Mr Solymosi put the call out earlier this year to form a team to tackle the challenge and four students signed on.
Students strapping on their hiking boots at the weekend included Louis Ludike, 17, Alex Neilson, 16, Matthew MacDonald, 15, and Jackson Holbeck, 15.
The challenge pays homage to the Kokoda Trail Campaign during the Second World War's Pacific phase and a cut-off of 39 hours was in place in honour of the 39th Militia - Australia's first troops to make the treacherous journey.
The Victory College team crossed the finish line exhausted at 1.57pm on Sunday - 30 hours and 55 minutes after setting out on the trek.
A dog tag and certificate awaited the successful team but for Louis, all he wanted was a hamburger with the lot.
Louis hobbled up Nash St on Monday to The Gympie Times, admitting muscle soreness was taking hold.
"We set ourselves a goal of finishing before 2pm the next day and we just made it," he said.
A frantic dash over the final 6km of the trek helped the team make its deadline.
"All I wanted to do was take my shoes, socks and strapping tape off," Louis said.
In total, 2500 participants hit the trails for the challenge and Louis said support was endless.
"It was a great atmosphere," he said.
"I remember seeing a sign someone was holding saying, 'Keep going random stranger'."
The Victory College team was helped by its own support crew, consisting of Alex's grandparents Denise and John Neilson, Louis' mother Carina and Jackson's mother Kaylene Ritter.
There were four checkpoints along the way, allowing team members a brief respite to refuel, collect supplies and receive spirit-lifting encouragement.
A minute's silence and sounding of the Last Post before the challenge gave perspective.
"It really opened our eyes about what our soldiers went through," Louis said.
96km trek starting at Firth Park, Gold Coast hinterland
39 hour time limit in honour of the 39th Militia; the first Australian troops to set foot on the Kokoda Track
12 creeks, and 5000m of vertical elevation
2500 participants raising funds for the Kokoda Youth Foundation