Clare Zappala is a young teacher at St Mary’s College, Woree who is showing some real enthusiasm and initiative in her Health & Physical Education portfolio by inventing and successfully coordinating the very first North Queensland Cross Country Championships (NQCCC).
In Term Two, COVID-19 sent schools in the region into lock-down and since they have been back in Term Three, Clare was motivated to make sure that keen and talented runners from St Mary’s and other Catholic schools did not miss out.
Ms Zappala said, “We have a running club at St Mary’s with some very enthusiastic runners who train very hard.
“Other cross-country events were cancelled this year due to COVID-19, and I wanted to see that these kids remain fit and motivated, and what better way than to put on a regional event!?”
The event welcomed close to 400 runners from 14 schools across the Far North Queensland region, from Tully to Mareeba. Runners ranging from 9 years to 18 years old took on the course around the school oval and across country through the surrounding landscapes.
“It was the first cross country event in the Diocese to bring Catholic schools together,” said Ms Zappala.
Spirits were high as Catholic school students and staff enjoyed the sunshine and the friendly competition, which obviously provided much needed relief from the months of lock-down prior.
St Mary’s Principal, Mr Wayne Wood said, “The NQCCC is one way for us to give students an opportunity to get back into the full experience of schools after the COVID-19 lock-down period.”
He said, “Clare was the one who initiated this – it was born out of her idea and we were really happy to get on board with it.
“She has been amazing in her preparation and all the work that she has done. She is really passionate about all kids having a go and with a background in running, this was her opportunity to bring it all together, and the results were fantastic!”
Clare was quick to acknowledge that it was a team effort. She said, “The staff here at St Mary’s really made the event the success that it was!”
Mr Wood said, “We put significant work into establishing an approved COVID-safe Plan prior to the NQCCC.
“With advice from the Queensland Government and Catholic Education Services (CES), we took extensive measures to ensure the health and safety of all staff and competitors.”
One of the most important measures was that no spectators were permitted at the event.
“While this was unfortunate, it was a necessary precaution,” said Mr Wood. St Mary’s media personnel kept all the parents and families updated with the action from the event with photos and media coverage.
Other considerations were the management of areas specifically established for school groups so that we could minimise the close interaction between students from different schools. Staff from various schools were also asked to adhere to the 1.5m social distancing requirements.
CES Work Health and Safety Manager, David Kemp said, “It’s fantastic that schools across the Diocese are enthusiastically getting their students back on track with events like this. What St Mary’s have done with this event is show that we can continue to encourage the health and well-being of our students, whilst ensuring their safety. We will continue to work closely with schools to ensure their COVID-safe plans remain effective.”