Racing to save camp

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One of Queenstown’s rising multi-sport stars is racing for more than good results at this Sunday’s inaugural Queenstown Hill Challenge.

Jaime Kruijer, 15, is running the 13km event – a Wakatipu High fundraiser to help save the school’s popular Branches Camp, which she hopes to go on in December.

The 42-year-old annual outdoor education camp for Year 10 students is under financial strain. This year 150 teens are scheduled to go on the 12-day excursion at Branches Station, near Skippers Canyon.

Jaime’s just taken a break from a hectic winter sports season of netball, squash and karate – the Queenstown Hill/Te Tapunui Challenge will be her first race before she begins training for the gruelling triathlon and multi-sport season.

“I’m just going to do it for fun and see where I’m at,” she says.

Last summer the aspiring Olympian emerged as a name to watch after she won Junior Challenge Wanaka, her divisions at the Paradise Triathlon, Otago/Southland Secondary Schools Triathlon and placed fourth in the South Island Secondary Schools champs.

Jaime juggles her intensive triathlon training schedule with swimming four times a week, guitar lessons, plus homework.

She’s also determined to do her bit to help secure the future of Wakatipu High’s beloved Branches Camp.
“Everyone’s excited about it – we’ve been talking about it all year.”

Jaime’s mum, Cyndi, is also getting behind the event – she’ll be a race marshal.

“[The Queenstown Hill Challenge] needs to be supported because Branches is such an iconic event. The school doesn’t want to lose the camp,” Kruijer says.

Wakatipu High PE teacher Ken McIntyre and other parents came up with the idea for the fundraising race when they realised Branches had become more expensive to run.

The school charges parents $250 a child to attend.

“With 150 kids, you need more staff – so they have to come out of classes or you have to buy in outside instructors, and you need more of them, and 150 people eat an awful amount,” McIntyre says.

“We decided instead of putting the price up significantly – we would’ve had to – we looked at some old fashioned met­­-hods like fundraising.

“I don’t think the camp is in doubt but it would have become constrained and we wouldhave had to change the format. And I think if you change the format you change the culture of the camp.”

Sunday’s race opens up parts of Queenstown Hill that have never been accessible to the public before, McIntyre says.

Starting at Wakatipu High at 10am, the course takes bikers, runners and walkers up the Queens­town Hill track, traverses the open summit tops of the hill before descending to the Shotover River at Tuckers Beach.

McIntyre hopes it’ll become a “mini Motatapu race”.

“It’s quite an iconic landscape,” he says.

“You get views and a perspective of the basin up there that you don’t really get from anywhere else.”