Joseph Lynch (Wellington College) stars at NZSS Orienteering Championships

Wellington College student Joseph Lynch has navigated his way to victory.

The 17-year-old won both the senior boys’ sprint and long titles at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Orienteering Championships in Masterton last month.

Lynch defeated 51 competitors in the 3.7-kilometre sprint race to win in 14 minutes 13 seconds, and beat 37 in the 5.8km long race to win in 57 minutes 20 seconds, nearly four minutes ahead of the runner-up.

He also participated in the senior boys’ relay race alongside fellow Wellington College students Rowan Sinclair and Seb Daellenbach.

The team was third out of 17 teams, with Lynch having one of the fastest individual times of 24 minutes 45 seconds.

Lynch said he originally discovered the sport by signing up for it during his first year of high school in 2013.

“I’m quite an outdoors kind of guy, I enjoy tramping. So I like that side of it, but it’s also because it’s part-physical, you have to be running quite fast. But then you also have to work out where you have to go, it’s half mental side and half physical side,” he said.

In the three weeks leading up to the recent championships, he said he got his younger brother, who competed in cross country, to draw him up a training plan.

While it was easy to hone the physical side of orienteering, the navigation side was harder to prepare for, he said.

“It’s really just experience and events that help you with that. There are skills you can hone down at home like looking at maps and things, but I find the best way is to just be out there.”

His recent wins come off the back of winning the sprint and long titles at the North Island Secondary Schools Orienteering Championships held in Taupo in May, meaning Lynch is undefeated at senior boy level for 2017.

He said winning made him happy, but he was most proud of his consistency.

“That’s the hard thing with orienteering compared to a normal running race.

“If you just get a little bit lost, you might make a four minute mistake then you can be out of the race. So it’s a lot more uncertain. I’m glad that over the past few years I’ve got a bit more consistent rather than just having one good run one day and not the next.”

In September, Lynch heads to Bathurst in New South Wales as part of the New Zealand team which will compete in the Australian Orienteering Carnival 2017.

He is the only Wellington representative competing in the 20-person Men 20 Elite sprint race, the 19-person Men 20 Elite middle distance race and the 18-person Men 20 Elite long race.

Lynch, who also competed in cross-country and athletics through Wellington College, said he was excited about competing overseas.

Wellington College orienteering coordinator Mark Wallace said Lynch’s commitment to the sport had stepped up over the past 18 months.

“We’ve had some people do reasonably well, top 10s and top fives, another young boy won a title at intermediate level, but nothing like what Joe’s doing this year.”

He said his success had inspired younger students to take up orienteering.

“We are a minority sport and often operate in the shadows of rugby and football and all the big sports. It’s a real buzz for me to see what he’s achieved, but it’s also great for other guys to have someone like Joe to look up to.”

Next year Lynch plans to begin studying engineering at the University of Canterbury, but wanted to keep competing.

“There’s quite a big group of people in Christchurch who do orienteering, so hopefully I’ll be able to continue it down there.”

 – Stuff