Perse pupil plots path to GB orienteering talent squad

Picture: Wendy Caryle

Hebe Darwin (Year 11) has been selected for the British Orienteering Performance Programme Talent Squad.

The Talent Squad comprises the country’s best young orienteers aged 15-18, based on their performances in major domestic competitions during the season, such as the national championships and the Jan Kjellström International Festival of Orienteering.

Hebe, who recently won the Year 11 girls’ British Schools and British Schools Score titles, was delighted to have made it on to the GB programme having demonstrated her ability over different distances and terrains.

She said: “I feel very pleased because I’ve worked hard on my fitness and technique to get into the squad.

“At my age, they’re looking for people who can perform well over all the different disciplines, whether it’s ‘sprint’ orienteering, which is 2-3km and usually held in urban areas, or longer ‘classic’ races, which are usually in forests or moorland areas.

“They also look at your race results, at how much you’ve improved and whether they think you’ve got the potential to succeed at a higher level.”

Hebe has already attended her first squad training session in Bristol, with further monthly sessions to follow around the country, including the North Downs, the Lake District and the Gower peninsula in Wales.

She added: “As well as attending sessions which focus on specific skills, such as navigation and race preparation, being part of the programme also means you get mentoring from up-and-coming GB stars who you can talk to about your training, and give you advice.”

Hebe, who is a member of West Anglian Orienteering Club, took her first strides in the sport as a young child with her parents, both keen orienteers.

However, her commitment to orienteering has grown over the last four years.

Hebe was invited to a Junior Regional Orienteering Squad training camp in Scotland two years ago, which gave her a flavour of how exciting and demanding the sport could be. She also discovered a competitive streak in herself.

She said: “That was the first training camp I was selected for, but I was near the bottom in terms of placings and I hated that!

“One of the big things I learned was that, if I wanted to improve my performance, I needed to organise my own training and keep pushing myself.

 “At the moment, I train mostly by running with Perse Runners and by myself, plus doing gym-based aerobic fitness work.

“Most weekends I am competing at either a local or national event, in order to practise my navigational skills in different environments.

“You need to be able to read the map while you’re running at 80 to 90% of your regular speed while making sure that you’re going the right way, so you have to train your eyes, brain and legs to do that.”

As a near-term goal, Hebe would be delighted to be invited to a national training camp in Stockholm next summer.

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