I have now been on the Down Under Sports Cross Country trip to Hawaii & Australia for the last 3 summers. Down Under Sports, also known as The International Sports Specialists, Inc. is an organization that invites thousands of student-athletes from all over the United States to travel and compete in various sports while on the Gold Coast of Australia.
For the past three years I have traveled with about 200-300 Cross Country athletes from around the US to Hawaii and Australia. The Cross Country athletes compete in two meets while in Australia, and All-American Meet and a meet including Australians. Even though theses athletes are invited because of their successes in running, the trip is much more than racing. The two meets are a small part of a large experience for these kids, some of whom have never traveled out of the United States. I think from reading the following quotes, you’ll see that for the kids, bonding with one another has left the largest impact.
“This trip is worth way more than it cost. You get to bond with people who share the same passion as you and walk away with great friendships and amazing memories.” Rebecca Sweeney, North Carolina
“Amazing! It was definitely a dream come true. You should have to experience it yourself.” Jaclyn Warden, South Carolina
“The trip was worth it. You make so many new friends while doing something you love to do. The hotels were nice, like the Q1.” David Leos, Michigan
“The whole trip is just amazing. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Australia and Hawaii are such cool places to go to and I’m glad I could go. I saw so many new interesting things, experience new cultures, and made so many new friends. Making new friends was the best part about it. At first no one knew each other, but by the end, you feel like you’ve known them for years. I’d definitely do it again.” Sean Lewis, Indiana
“This trip gave me a lot of opportunities. I had an awesome team and coach. The workouts and races pushed me and will help me improve in the future. I’m so glad I didn’t turn this chance down because I did a lot of amazing things and met amazing people.” Erica Zimmerman, Massachusetts
“The trip was amazing! I’m so glad I put the effort into raising the money and practicing to get here. I met some great people and made friends that I will never forget.” Rachel Laufer, Pennsylvania
“Going on this trip was an awesome experience. I immediately knew I would enjoy it when after traveling for 24-hours, our team went on a 6-mile run around a volcano and along the beach at 11:00 pm. It was great to be able to meet kids from all over who loved to run as much as I did,” Patrick Burton, North Carolina
“The first day of the trip I felt like I had moved to a different country because I didn’t know anyone and I was the youngest on my team. After about two days, my roommates and I became very close and it felt like we had been buddies forever.” Dylan Cunningham, Georgia
My group has traveled to Hawaii first each of the last three years. While in Hawaii the kids are able to see a traditional Luau, visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial, climb the Diamondhead Volcano, among a number of other opportunities.
“I got to swim with turtles.” Peter Lewis, North Carolina
After a few days in Hawaii, we then board a Qantas Jet and travel over 8,000 miles to Sydney, Australia, go through customs, board another flight and head to Brisbane, Australia. Once in Brisbane, our journey to Surfer’s Paradise (the Gold Coast) isn’t quite over. It’s another hour drive south on a Murray’s Charter Bus, the same buses used during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This year the Cross Country teams were quite spoiled, as we were able to stay in the Q1 Tower, the tallest residential building in the world. The views from my 37th floor apartment were incredible as you can see here.
While in Australia, Down Under Sports has organized a number of activities for the athletes, coaches, and supporters (parents, grandparents, friends traveling, too) to take part in. Each day there is a schedule of activities such as: the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Dream World, and dinners at various restaurants. Also, every group has a Free Day where the kids can sign up for different excursions such as: surfing, the Great Barrier Reef, ATV tours, Jeep tours, fishing, whale watching, sky diving, and many more.
With all the fun the athletes are having, they do still have to get ready to compete in two races. This year, the All-American Meet was the first one and it was it held at Runaway Bay Park, the site of the Queensland State HS Championships. This is a team competition for the different states represented at the competition. Many of the states combine with one another, which gives the kids more opportunity to meet new people. Athletes receive awards for a top-3 team finish and can also receive medals for placing top-10 in their age group (16 & under or 17 & over). There are both small team (scoring 3 athletes) and large team (scoring 5 athletes) awards given as well.
All-American Results: Boys | Girls
Girls Large Team – NC/SC 36; UT/WY/VA 86; KS/MO/MD 88
Girls Small Team – NV/TX 19; CO/NM 23; KY/OK/CA 24
Boys Large Team – PA/MA/IN/OH/MN/WI 48; KY/OK/CA 64; IL/MT/LA 85
Boys Small Team – VA/WV 12; MI/FL 17; NC/GA 26
Individual Winners - Boys: Ed McDaniels, Illinois; Girls: Liz Reida, Missouri
During the International race there are no team awards, as the Aussies typically only compete for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place overall. Down Under, however, has increased the awards from top-3 to the top-10 once again based on age groups.
International Results: Boys | Girls
Individual Winners - Boys: Tyler Bingham, Arizona; Girls: Katelyn Simpson, A.B. Patterson (Australia)
“The races were challenging but fun. I loved having a chance to race against athletes from Australia.” Tyler Bingham, Arizona, the boy’s International race champion.
“You walk away from the races feeling good about yourself and knowing how lucky you are to be representing your state.”
Don't miss out on an experience of a lifetime next summer. When you receive the invitation from Down Under Sports, consider going, it's well worth it!
For more information visit Down Under's website or contact Job Cyril @ firstname.lastname@example.org.