From hub caps to state titles

From hub caps to state titles


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Broken Hill School of the Air students Angus Hodges, Jack Siemer, Charlotte Pearce, Poppy Young and Jessica Mashford at the Barrier District PSSA carnival in Mildura. Insert Jack Siemer practising at home.

Broken Hill School of the Air students Angus Hodges, Jack Siemer, Charlotte Pearce, Poppy Young and Jessica Mashford at the Barrier District PSSA carnival in Mildura. Insert Jack Siemer practising at home.

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Despite drought and limited access to traditional athletics facilities, the Broken Hill School of the Air students shine on the track.

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Students living in some of the most remote parts of NSW have to be inventive.

That might mean using hub cabs instead of a discus, or hay bales with elastic between them to practise scissor kicks for high jump.

For the runners there’s plenty of space in the outback to train, especially when collectively their practice ground is 180,894 hectares (447,000 acres) – the equivalent of 338,636 football fields.

Despite their remoteness, drought and limited access to traditional athletics facilities, five students from the Broken Hill School of the Air (SOTA) competed at the Barrier District Primary School Sports Association (PSSA) carnival in Mildura recently, and four of them made the state finals.

Jack Siemer, Angus Hodges, Charlotte Pearce and Poppy Young will head to the NSW PSSA Athletics Championships in Sydney on October 31 and November 1.

“You have to be inventive out here, so the kids use anything they can get their hands on to help them train,” Broken Hill School of the Air teacher Abby Honeysett said.

“I’m so proud of them and impressed they got their skills up to the level of state.”

Jack Siemer and Angus Hodges

Jack Siemer and Angus Hodges

Jack Siemer

Jack Siemer, who lives on Coally Station, 265km north of Broken Hill, won the junior boy’s shot put and discus event, throwing 26.25 metres. This earned him a tie for junior boy champion.

Until last year, the nine-year-old was practising with hub caps and round rocks found on the station, before his parents Sam and Tennille Siemer bought a discus and shot put.

“Sports Day for SOTA kids is an annual highlight and even though they practise many of the events at home in the weeks leading up to the school carnival they have never received formal coaching. Most practise includes a morning run in their work boots,” Mrs Siemer said.

”They’ve had so much responsibility in the drought with extra chores, this has been so good for them, a chance to escape.”

Poppy Young

Poppy Young, who lives in the small town of Milparinka (population 11 and 300km north of Broken Hill) where her parents own and operate the local hotel, came first in the 100 metres and 200m while placing second in long jump. She also tied for the 11-year-old girl champion

“As there are no facilities to practise in the outback, training is done on dirt roads, which can be very rocky around Milparinka,” her mother Rebecca Young said.

“The rocks can be tricky at times, with the risk of rolling an ankle or tripping. She has also been chased by emus a couple of times whilst out on a training run. 

“Poppy practises long jump in the dry creek bed in the sand and she has also made a sand pit at the end of the school room verandah where she can practice her run up and take off on cement.”

Angus Hodges

Angus Hodges, who lives on "Banoon", 75km north east of Mildura, came first in the 800m – an event in which he competed at the PSSA Athletics Carnival in 2016 and 2017.

His training consists of running 800m on dirt tracks around the house paddock. 

“He likes to take our working dog Pip as a fellow competitor, as no one else in the family can run as fast as him,” his mother Bree Wakefield said.

“Angus also likes to keep up his fitness by running behind the sheep when mustering, something he's done since he was a little kid.

Charlotte Pearce

Charlotte Pearce, from Gumpopla Station, 280km north east of Broken Hill, placed third in the long jump. She has been training each night after finishing horse riding. 

“We have plenty of space to run and lots of sand to practice long jump in,” her mother Rebecca Pearce said.

“She has been running laps around the horse track and leaping any sticks and logs in sight.”

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