23 Sep 2015

Students bid for place in gruelling race

6:51 am on 23 September 2015

Five students from Christchurch's Aranui High School are hoping to become the youngest ever to compete in the Coast to Coast race.

Four time Coast to Coaster, Rosie Shakespeare takes students through their paces.

Four time Coast to Coaster, Rosie Shakespeare takes students through their paces. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The opportunity comes from Coast to Coast competitors and businesses who want to see students from the decile 2 school compete in a race normally reserved for elite athletes or cashed-up amateurs.

Aranui High teacher Rawiri Waaka said when he first received the call from multi-sport legend Steve Gurney offering to help, he initially thought he was talking to the coach of the national rugby league squad, Steve Kearney.

Rawiri Waaka

Rawiri Waaka Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

"It took me a while. I thought I actually don't know this guy. And then he goes, Steve Gurney, Coast to Coast winner, and I went, now I know who you are! So I was a bit embarrassed."

Mr Waaka said the idea was for Gurney to help with training a group of mostly 15-year-olds and for two to finally be selected to accompany Gurney and another competitor on the gruelling two day race from the West Coast to Christchurch.

He said help had already come from local businesses, including a local shoe store.

"We went to the shoe fitting in Chucks and Vans and he goes, is this your running shoe and they nodded, and he was shaking his head in disbelief. So now they've got proper fitting footwear that will do the job for the Coast to Coast."

Fitness coach and Coast to Coaster Rosie Shakespeare said the teens would compete in double kayaks and be helped by one of the two seasoned professionals.

But she said it would not be a case of them sitting back and watching as their partner helped them negotiate the Waimakariri River.

"The person behind needs to be in time and kind of needs to call the shots about speed and how it's feeling. So both roles are really important and both have to happen for the boat to work."

Coast to Coast hopeful, Andrew Gordon.

Coast to Coast hopeful, Andrew Gordon. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Staying in the kayak was one of the first lessons Andrew Gordon, 15, had to learn.

He loves the discipline that comes with the intensive training and said it had flowed through to the rest of his school work.

"It, like, completely changed me ... the way I thought was different. I haven't been in any big trouble this year. It felt good to be out of trouble for once."

Sholita Umutaua, was given a pass from kayaking on the day so she could prepare for her first school formal.

She is determined to be one of the two selected to take part in the race.

"Excited but at the same time we've got heaps of training to do, because obviously you have to start from somewhere and then build up. If you get given something you've just got to give it 100 percent."

Mr Waaka said the students involved had gone off the rails with their studies and were part of a special school academy aimed at keeping teenagers engaged in school.

He said the pressure was now on to have them ready for the big race in February.

"If it doesn't go too well it looks like I was driving the Titantic when it sank. So yeah, it's a great opportunity and in some ways as directors, quite frightening as well. I mean it's a huge challenge."

The pair who will go on to compete in the race, along with another two to act as their support crew, will be selected in December.