Five Kawerau King of the Mountain stars are ready to tackle the event’s twin race in Australia next week.

The Bendigo Bank International Mountain Challenge is part of the Pomona King of the Mountain Festival, held near Noosa on July 28, and it has a reciprocating mateship with the Kawerau race where they exchange their top athletes each year in a friendly trans-Tasman rivalry.

In this year’s Kiwi contingent for Pomona, it will be a first time for Anna O’Brien, Teunis Schoneveld and Luke Seufert while Glen Stricot-Tarboton and Jana Longney are returning to Mt Cooroora.

Stricot-Tarboton returns after racing at Pomona in 2013 and 2014, the latter of which he was the junior men’s winner. “Running is a very simple sport, I enjoy the way running up mountains allows the routine of life to be put into perspective. It is easy to get caught into the routine of home and work, but by getting out and standing on the summit of a mountain I am able to look out over those commitments and appreciate the magnitude of the small part of the world we live in.”

O’Brien is a mother of three and is looking to have some fun on her Pomona debut.  “I have three young children and started a new career as a beginner teacher this year, both of which have impacted the training I would have liked to have done. I am hoping that my aerobic base, with some last-minute sprinting and hills will get me through the race.

“Pomona is an anomaly for me, which is part of its appeal. I hadn’t known what to expect at the Kawerau King of the Mountain race, but it was such brutal fun, and the community support was so special that getting the chance to be part of the Kawerau twin race is super exciting.

“I love to climb, give me a climb over a descent any day. My children, both my own, and my lovely class, and I have watched the 2018 trips and spills video more than once, and we’re all thrilled and terrified to see Mum/Mrs O’Brien tackle that part of the race.  I’m sure my facial expressions will provide the kids with a good laugh.”

Forty-two-year-old Schoneveld wants to beat as many Aussies as he can and is hoping to crack the 30-minute mark. Schoneveld has broken the one-hour mark in the Kawerau race for the past six years.  “I had set myself a challenge at the end of last year to do a run a day for 2019, this has helped me get motivated to train and get my fitness and speed up to achieve my goals for Pomona. In my training is obviously plenty of hill work.”

Running in the junior categories, Longney and Seufert are looking for slick times. Longney is aiming to beat her time last year of 35m 30s while Seufert wants to crack 30 minutes.   “Training towards Pomona has had its dips and slides over the weeks and months,” Longney says. “Much of my family and friends have helped to support my training by driving me to the different places. With Pūtauaki right at my doorstep I entered into my first mountain running race, the Kawerau Prince and Princess of the Mountain back in 2011.

“Pomona fits in well with my winter season. My week usually containing playing hockey games and badminton trainings on Wednesday and Sundays, and Thursday’s running with my coach.”

Seufert, who also competes in multisport, adventure race and triathlon events says he is looking to getting the most out of the experience

“I think the main obstacle that will hold me back from achieving my goal is the lack of knowledge of the Pomona track, therefore I’m going to have to wing it and push myself throughout the entire course.

“I also do a lot of other running events which are taking place within the upcoming months therefore Pomona will be perfect training and a mental challenge to see how tough I really am.”

Pomona race director Dan King says the relationship between the two events has resulted in a friendly rivalry.  “Having Kiwi runners cross the ditch to represent New Zealand at the Bendigo Bank International Mountain Challenge most definitely adds some spice to the event. Not only from a competitor stand point, but from a crowd perspective it adds another level of interest, especially at the pointy end of the field with the fastest runners from Australia and New Zealand often going head to head.

“The track up Mt Cooroora is always a rough and challenging climb and descent. If you haven’t experienced it before you will be in for a big surprise, especially on the descent. Due to the rocky nature the thought of taking a fall at speed instantly makes you want to slow down.

“The quickest times have historically been from runners who have managed to overcome this fear and hurl themselves down the mountain in an admirable blend of determination and astonishing dexterity which is simply a sight to behold.”