Kawerau King of the Mountain Race celebrates community and youth spirit

By Taiha Molyneux

Hundreds are preparing to take part in the 60th Diamond Jubilee of the Kawerau King of the Mountain Race set to kick off tomorrow.

Established in 1955 the 8 kilometre King of the Mountain Race is hailed as one of New Zealand’s toughest Mountain Race challenges.

Organisers say 200 runners will participate this year which is the highest number since its inception.

People travel from all over the country and abroad for the race and past winners will return this year in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee.

While the event is designed to push skilled athletes to the limit, its also an opportunity to celebrate the community and foster the up and coming athletic talent in the small Bay of Plenty Town.

For the first time 14 year old Hamiora Hooper will join the adult section of the race.

A strong family network and support from members of the community has seen Hamiora excel at a very young age in a number of sporting activities including Eastern Bay of Plenty rep rugby since 2009 and a number of athletic and cross country competitions.

Hamiora’s potential as a promising young athlete was recognised by one of the Mountain Race organisers, Lee Barton and his partner Meagan Edhouse.

Lee Barton has worked with youth for 10 years and is a seasoned athlete who has tackled Pūtauaki Mountain a number of times as well as Pomona Mountain in Australia.

His partner, Meagan Edhouse has won the Queen of the Mountain Race ten times and still holds the fastest women’s record which she set in 1995.

Lee is no stranger to hard work and determination and he and Meagan have taken Hamiora and other youth in the Kawerau community under their wing to train and prepare them for the gruelling race.

Lee says, “Hamiora has the type of attributes and necessary whānau support to go places, if he can stay on track he will succeed - and that is why I give my time to him.”

In preparation for this year’s race, Lee has spent one on one time with Hamiora traversing Pūtauaki Mountain every Sunday to build and strengthen his capacity and focus.

“Any young person that is dedicated to turn up week after week to train on Pūtauaki deserves every accolade they can get. Kawerau King of the Mountain is a great stepping stone for him if he chooses to go on in the future in this or any sport.  With his present regime and form he has the potential to be in the top 5 junior males,” says Lee.

Hamiora will be joined by his mother Sharon, his father Dean, his sister Keri and his aunties, uncles and cousins who have competed in the event for many years.

Lee says, “I really should emphasise that this race is incredibly tough, anyone who can do it in or around 60 minutes is right up there, very few do and Hamiora is knocking on the door at his tender age, maybe not this year but definitely sometime in the future he has the potential to break 60 minutes and become part of the elite. In the meantime Meagan and I will give him the best foot up possible.”

Individual athletes local schools and kura kaupapa will be competing to celebrate the 60th Anniversary . 

Sprint relay races and the Prince and Princess of the Mountain Race will kick the event off tomorrow followed by the King and Queen of the Mountain Race due to start at midday. The community is expected to be out in force at Firmin Field with many sporting an array of costumes, with a number spot prizes available throughout the day.

For more information on the events of the day tommorrow visit the website.