Up for the Kokoda Challenge

Published 10:00am 29 March 2023

Up for the Kokoda Challenge
Words by Kylie Knight

The Lakes College students Jordon White and Kartik Karri will attempt to finish a 30km leg of The Kokoda Challenge on the Sunshine Coast in five hours so they can make it back to Brisbane for their school formal next month.

The pair is part of a 30-member The Lakes College team, led by teacher Karen Ball who will do everything she can to ensure the boys make it to the formal on time.

They are aiming to complete it in five hours – two hours less than they normally would.

“I vowed to get these guys home, so I’ll be there with them. They might have to carry me across the finish line,” Karen says.

“We’re going to push the pace as quick as we possibly can. They will run across the finish line, they will be waving as they go through, jump in the car and head straight down here.”

The 30km leg of the Pinnacle Challenge, which includes separate 48km and 96km events on other days, starts at 9am in Kenilworth. The formal is at Victoria Park Golf Club at 6pm the same day.

|“They may be a little bit hot and sweaty and tired, but they’ll get there and be able to enjoy their formal occasion. It just so happened it fell on the same day this year,” Karen says.|

Jordon and Kartik are not fazed by the time constraints and instead relish the extra challenge they have set themselves.

It’s the same reason they have opted to take on the Pinnacle Challenge after completing the single 48km challenge previously.

Up for the Kokoda Challenge

Aiming high

For Jordon, it will be the fourth year he’s taken part.

“I mainly do it to challenge myself. The 48km is becoming just a walk, I’ve got to challenge myself this year. It also helps greatly with the whole community type of thing, especially mateship and endurance with the teams we walk with. It just helps with the bond,” he says.

They feel the spirit of the Diggers who sacrificed so much on the Kokoda Track in WWII.

“You can see it once you get about halfway through. Everyone starts getting really close but we’re always pushing each other to go further,” Jordon says.

Kartik is also up for the chance to push himself.

“It’s a challenge. I like challenges and I feel like knowing way back when the sacrifices they made … it just feels respectful personally to take the challenge. So, it’s one of the reasons I entered,” he says.

The pair never considered pulling out of the event because it was on the same day as the Year 12 formal.

“I feel it’s more of a challenge that it is on formal and it will be more memorable,” Kartik says.

Karen has been a participant in the Kokoda Challenge since 2017.

“I started it with an open team and at that point decided that was exactly what our school needed and brought it to the school in 2018,” she explains.

This year, 30 The Lakes College students will take part. The college’s biggest contingent was 60 students in 2021.

“It’s eight months’ worth of training, planning and preparation. We recruited the kids back in term three of last year and they started walking in term four just local stuff around North Lakes. Then, in term one and term two we’re out on the hills of the Sunshine Coast,” she explains.

Up for the Kokoda Challenge
The Lakes College students Kartik Karri and Jordon White, The Kokoda Youth Foundation founder Doug Henderson with teacher Karen Ball.

About The Kokoda Challenge

The Kokoda Youth Foundation is a registered charity that aims to educate Australians about the history of the Kokoda Campaign while offering a life-changing experience for all participants in The Kokoda Challenge endurance events.

The Challenge raises money for youth programs which aim to engage and inspire young people to reach their potential.

Kokoda Youth Foundation was founded by Doug Henderson and his wife Anna in 2004.

“It was one of those defining moments in life … I went to an RSL conference, I had never been to one before, and the guest speaker spoke about the history of Kokoda. I was blown away. I’m a Vietnam Vet, so why didn’t I know this story? Why didn’t every Australian?,” he recalls.

“I came back home to the Gold Coast and thought, ‘I have to do something about this. I’ve got to tell this story’.”

About the same time, there was negative press about young people.

“I don’t subscribe to that, but some fall through the cracks. I thought, ‘what an amazing story to inspire young people’,” Doug explains. “That was where it all started.”

He says teachers tell him they relish working with students outside the classroom environment to achieve the goal.

|“I’m told it’s quite extraordinary. It’s great for the kids, it’s great for teachers. They learn this is an event where you really get out what you put in,” Doug says.|

He says the commitment of Jordon and Kartik to take part on the day of their formal is extraordinary.

“They’re looking at (finishing in) five hours, they’re going to have to do a fair bit of running but they’re young and they’re fit. What an achievement (it will be),” he says.

For more information, visit the website

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