Deadline-conscious students and weather-hardened tourists typically populate Trinity on February weekends. Last Saturday, however, this regular group was joined by 107 orienteers. Orienteering, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a sport which involves point-to-point navigation. Athletes hit a buzzer to begin a race and then seek out electronic markers (referred to as ‘controls’). Orienteers use a SportIdent Tag, which is attached to the finger, to confirm that they have visited the controls. Once all the controls have been located in the right order, the athlete finishes the race by hitting the starting buzzer again.
Jana Cox, Captain of Dublin University Orienteers (DUO), uses the appealing soundbite of “cunning running” to describe the sport. In this regard, those who excel at orienteering combine strong running with an ability to make split second decisions. For example, athletes will have to decide, with little time available, whether to run left or right around a building in order to reach their next control.
Based on that decision, they could shave crucial seconds off their race time. Cox also maintains the sport is great for developing a person’s map reading skills. She cites the fact that in a recent competition in Edinburgh, DUO members were able to navigate their way around the Scottish capital without difficulty. This is all the more impressive given that many of Trinity’s athletes were unacquainted with Edinburgh’s cityscape prior to the event.
The first outing in the Irish Colleges Campus Sprint Series was what attracted so many orienteers to the college last weekend. The other venues in the series will be the University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick and University College Dublin with a less formal relay event hosted by University College Cork. Individual athletes are ranked based on their two best performances in the series.
The idea behind the Campus Sprint Series comes from a similar competition held a number of years ago. Having ‘rested’ the courses used at that time, it was decided to resurrect this popular competition. DUO organised the event in conjunction with college authorities, the Dublin University Central Athletics Committee and the Irish Orienteering Association (IOA). Cox points out that a lot of emphasis was placed on publicising the series via social media. To this end, participating colleges collaborated with the IOA’s Public Relations Officer, Finn van Gelderen, to create a promotional video for the competition. Interestingly, the soundtrack for this video was produced by former Trinity student, Conor Shortt.
Attendance on Saturday testified to the success of this publicising drive. The 107 orienteers competing came from as far afield as Fermanagh, Waterford and Cork. In addition, the race attracted a number of world championship-standard athletes including Colm Hill. It was a ‘sprint’ event which, in orienteering terms, means short courses with high numbers of controls. Thus, dotting Trinity’s 1.3, 2.3 and 3.3 km courses were 30 controls. The maze of buildings and laneways on campus meant these races suited those who are competent navigators. Daniel Kelly and Laura Maldonaldo claimed top honours in the short 14 controls.
Tivon Tyner was best junior in the same race. In the medium 20 controls, Donal Wickham and Lucie Stefkova placed first with Cliodhna Donaghy top amongst those under 18. Josh O’Sullivan-Hourihan was a comfortable winner of the long 24 controls. Alison Campbell finished highest amongst the female competitors in the same race. Zac O’Sullivan Hourihan won the corresponding junior race. There were also prizes for the fastest ‘sprint legs’. A ‘sprint leg’ is a section of the course in which the time it takes an athlete to get from one control to another is recorded. The Campus Sprint Series was breaking new ground here as this was the first instance in which ‘sprint legs’ featured in an Irish competition.
Following the prize giving, a table quiz was hosted in the Pav. The profits made from this event, along with entry fees from the day, will be donated to the Irish junior orienteering squad who are under the tutelage of Mike Long. Everyone who contributed to last weekend’s success was, in this sense, investing in the future of the sport in this country.