World Rogaine Championships 2022 Czech Republic
By Meredith Norman

Abigail and Joanna George and I formed the Dream Team in 2015 during our first rogaine together. We dreamt on our maps during the planning time in an attempt to embed the map in our brain. Hence, we became the Dream Team.

We were all introduced to rogaining through our fathers. My first rogaine was with my dad, Desmond Norman, in 2011 – we competed in the roving 12-hour at Palmer. I vividly remember being too afraid of the night creatures conjured up by my father’s unique humour to enter the cemetery to collect a control. I’ve come a fair way since then!

Abigail, Joanna and I have been inseparable friends since 2015 competing in orienteering events across the country and many local SA rogaines. When not orienteering we would spend weekends busking together on Rundle Mall. The money from busking funded our many matching outfits (including the tops worn in the WRC).

In 2016 on an orienteering camp we wrote a ‘Dream Team bucket list’. This list was an array of crazy activities including attending the World Rogaine Championships (WRC). Well, somehow the stars all aligned, and we ended up spending this European summer together travelling through Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and finishing with the World Rogaine Championships in the Czech Republic.

Our biggest navigational error happened before the rogaine even started. There was a WRC bus organised from the Prague Airport to the rogaine Hash House. We arrived early at the airport from our accommodation only to find there were no large planes or terminals in sight. Upon further investigation we realised we were at the flying school, 28km from the Prague Airport. We frantically booked a Bolt (UBER) and were driven efficiently by Milan our driver to the correct airport arriving at 9:59am, right on time for the 10am bus departure. This hour-long mistake was fortunately our biggest error of the event.

We arrived at the Hash House in the late afternoon. The Hash House was located at the Papsrek Ski Resort. We admired the mountainous views while realising the undeniable fate of having to traverse these slopes. There was a beautiful church at the ski resort where we said a Dream Team prayer. We watched the WRC opening ceremony. It left us excited for the challenge ahead. We felt excited to be part of the Australian contingent. That night we enjoyed a double dinner featuring a pub meal from the ski resort and a serving of pesto pasta. We all had a decent sleep sharing one sleeping mat and two sleeping bags between the three of us!

The morning of the event flew by; we had breakfast, were allocated SI’s and bibs, a GPS was fastened to my backpack and then before we knew it, we had our maps and it was planning time. The map was massive, and we knew not to be too greedy. My Dad’s advice was to always ensure we had many efficient cut off options, so we were all trying to keep this in the back of our minds during planning. We analysed the distribution of the high point controls (90/100pts) and considered a few different routes; comparing the points per km of each route.

We each had only completed a few 24-hour rogaines and had always returned to the Hash House for sustenance and sleep. However, having chatted to SA Rogaining’s Steve Cooper a few weeks earlier, he advised us from his experiences at the Czech WRC in 2002 that not returning to the Hash House was a very wise choice; hence it was decided that we would not loop back to the Hash House. We settled on our route and headed over to the starting paddock. We sealed our passports in a tamper proof bag; it was crazy to think we would be rogaining across two countries, Czech and Poland.

View the map here: To see the team’s route, click on Select Class, choose WY and Dream Team.

The rogaine started and we headed toward control 44, a minor water course. It was exciting walking with such a mixed group of people from all over the world each communicating in their own language. We saw a few teams of two chained together, this was a very interesting technique and would certainly ensure that team members were within earshot of each other. We encountered some of these teams later in the rogaine and they were still chained!! After C44 we headed to C23. Most teams retreated up to the path, but we decided to follow the creek. I was walking in the creek and then I suddenly just sank down into the mud. I was in up to my hips!! I clambered out before sinking back in yet again – there was a lot of laughter. I eventually escaped from the bog, and we headed toward the control. Whilst we didn’t exactly make a navigational error on this control, we lost a bit of time in the mud and were now alone in the forest.

The next few controls went smoothly. It was extremely steep (steeper than any SA terrain I’ve been in), but we just kept going. The rogaine used SI air cards to punch, these are small devices that fit on your wrist and allow for wireless punching (you just need to wave your hand near the control). To obtain the points for a control all team members must punch the control within 60 seconds of each other. There were a few occasions where one of us would reach the control first, so we were careful to not activate the SI until we were all at the control.

At around 4pm the clouds darkened, and we started hearing ominous crackling in the sky. Rain started, then pea sized hail and then marble sized hail balls came pelting down on us. We were taking a bearing through almost impenetrable forest to C104, probably one of the hardest controls on the course. Our heads were severely stinging with pain from the hail. We were getting saturated and cold as we had no rain jackets. In this dire situation our only choice was to keep on going as we knew if we stopped, we would get even colder. We hit a creek, walked about 40m left and saw the beautiful control 104. There was a lot of screaming and hugging as we were very proud of our Dream Team locating this in such challenging conditions.

We headed to C72 and the storm began to slowly ease. We were walking along a path, and I saw a mammal like creature in my peripheral vision. I glanced down and saw a massive wild boar (probably 2m long). It bolted out of sight before I could alert the twins.

Control 72 was on a rocky outcrop at the top of the hill. The descent down from C72 to C73 was very steep and the vegetation was almost impassable. Often the vegetation would get too thick and then we would have back track and try to push through the bush another way. On this descent we all slipped over several times and gained some epic scratches.

The next few hours went well, night fell, and we continued to pick away at controls. I’ve got to admit, a few times in SA rogaines, I’ve been a bit off in my route choice when near a control but have been fortunate when shining my torch to see the reflective control. Well, unfortunately the Czech Rogaining Society is not as forgiving as SARA. Their controls are dull and non-reflective, making for very difficult night-time control finding.

Our biggest mistake during the night was control 74; we took a bearing from the track junction below the control and missed the control and hit the track. We then reattempted to find the control and after a bit of searching we spotted the 2-metre rock in dense forest. We wasted about 15 minutes here.

After C74 we refilled our water and headed to C77 and then to C65. We reached C65 at 10:15pm and realised we were approaching the halfway mark of the event and were nowhere near halfway through our plan. We needed to consider shortening our plan, so we cut off our southern loop of controls (39/97/67) and went straight to C58. Having realised the time and the fact that we were falling behind we all sped up for the next few hours; things did seem a bit tense at this time. We weren’t angry at each other, but I could tell we were all a bit stressed about whether we could make it back in time. This anxiety didn’t help our eating either; we barely ate. We were tired and had a lot of distance remaining. The next few hours had a ‘Dream Team on a mission’ vibe.

The sun began to rise at around 5:40am when we hit control 25. At this point we realised that we had covered a really good distance in the early hours of the morning and would probably make it back to the Hash House in time. We were relieved and sat down for 10 minutes and ate some pasta straight from a snap lock bag. The pasta had gone a bit manky but we had no choice. This was the first proper food, apart from snacks, we had eaten since breakfast on Friday.

After C25 we steadily headed to  controls 36/37/87/105/26/85. We began to see a few more teams, which was reassuring. Our original plan included an eastern loop, however, as we only had 3.5 hours left we decided we would play it safe and head back to the Hash House, as there were still many contours to climb. We went on to collect controls 93/21/22/42; these controls looked easy on the map but were in fact challenging to find. We were happy we had left some extra time. We ran to the finish line together holding hands. It was such a relief, and I couldn’t have been prouder of the Dream Team. We finished with 37 minutes to spare, so perhaps we could have included an extra control; hindsight is wonderful.

After the rogaine, we enjoyed some food – they even provided complimentary beer on tap (perhaps SARA could consider this lol). At 1pm they pinned the results. We went over and saw that we had finished first Women’s Youth.

We were hysterical, hugging, crying, and feeling very proud. This was such a big achievement, we all felt so, so happy! We were 9th Women’s overall; this has inspired us to aim towards placing in this category in the future. We then all went to share the news with our families; I loved sharing this news with my dad as he was the person who introduced me to rogaining. Dad was very proud!

Looking at the results after the event we noticed another Women’s Youth team, the Ukrainian Foxes, completed a very similar route to us. They were travelling about an hour behind us for the whole rogaine and arrived back at 12:34pm ultimately disqualifying themselves. We really admire this team and were sad that they were disqualified after this hard effort.

The rogaine presentation was special. Rogainers were all gathered in an arena surrounded by the flags of the countries represented in the rogaine. The Women’s Youth category was the first to be presented. We were awarded a beautiful gold medal and certificate by the event organisers. It felt so special when they read out ‘Women’s Youth World Rogaine Champions is the Dream Team from Australia’. I was so proud to become a world champion with my closest friends.

At the World Rogaine Championships, they award a perpetual trophy to each of the category winners. The previous Women’s Youth champions was a Ukrainian team. It was announced that the home of the last Women’s Youth champions was recently bombed. The entire house and all its contents, including the perpetual trophy, was destroyed. Fortunately, no one was inside when this happened. Hearing this really saddened the Dream Team, not for the lack of trophy but for the tragedy for the Ukrainians. Despite this, it was great to see many Ukrainians participating.

Overall, becoming World Rogaine Champions was the Dream Team’s dream come true. The WRC was very well organised and there were many helpful volunteers – it was a great event. We are grateful for all the support back in Australia from our family, friends and the wider rogaining and orienteering communities. We also appreciate SARA’s sponsorship that assisted us to travel to this event. The Dream Team is looking forward to many more adventures together.