In 1984 Stan Topper, who was race organizer for the Pomona King of the Mountain Race, and his family travelled to the North Island of New Zealand and made contact with Howard Hyland, the Race Organizer for the Tasman King of the Mountain Race. At Stan's invitation, Rosalie Hyland (Howard's wife) who was the then Queen of the Kawerau Race came to Pomona in 1985 and competed in our race; winning the Open Women's category in a record time of 31 mins and 17 sec.

This visit sparked the start of a great friendship between the two towns and a challenge was born to create a Trans Tasman Series between the two mountain races. It proved to be a great fit with each race having a reputation of being one of the toughest mountain races in each country, and providing an opportunity for some of the best mountain running champions from both countries to compete against each other, as well as the mountains. Despite both races being widely acclaimed as the toughest, they have quite unique characteristics:

It would not be a complete picture if we did not note the great rivalry and respect that was seen between two fierce competitors during the 1980's and early 1990's. Australia was strongly represented by a Brisbane based runner by the name of Graham Barralet, and his New Zealand rival was Barry Prosser who hailed from Wellington. For 10 consecutive years (1985 to 1994) these two men fought for the title, with the results tied at five each. It was only when Barry returned five years later and took the crown in 1999 that the balance was tipped in his favour. Notwithstanding, Barralet continues to hold the record for the quickest ascent from the base of the mountain to the summit in a time of 13 mins and 50 sec. The competitive battle that was displayed between these two champions captured the hearts and minds of all in the crowd, was the true embodiment of the great Trans Tasman rivalry, and given the deep respect that each held for the other, was a great representation of the ANZAC spirit.

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Trans Tasman Series Scoreboard - Mt Cooroora (1986 - 2019, 34 races to date)
Category Races Tallied Aust NZ
Outright Winner 34 20 14
Junior Male (13 - 20) 29 10 19
Junior Female (13 - 20) 10 8 2
Open Male (21 - 39) 34 23 11
Open Female (21 - 39) 34 23 11
Veteran Male (40 - 49) 30 14 16
Veteran Female (40 - 49) 11 11 0
Masters Male (50+) 18 10 8
Masters Female (50+) 4 4 0

Pomona's King of the Mountain

Pomona nestles in the hinterland of Noosa Shire and is dominated by the backdrop of Mt. Cooroora, a 438mtr volcanic plug which is very steep and covered in rugged rock. The summit is reached by a single lane rough track that climbs from the base, and this is the same track that is used by competitors in the annual King of the Mountain race which is the premiere event in the Pomona King of the Mountain Festival, held on the fourth Sunday of July and as presented by the Cooroy Pomona Lions Club.

The first race was organized by the Lions Club in 1979, and due to the steep and potentially dangerous track, was restricted to only 25 competitors. Over the years, with the help of the local SES volunteers and track marshals, the number of competitors has been steadily increased from 25 to 50 — then 75 — and now 100, without compromising the safety of the runners.

Pomona is a short 4.2km race from the centre of Pomona along an old rifle range track through a forested section, and then straight up the steep and rocky track to the summit. Up runners and Down runners run on the same narrow, steep and rocky track, with exception to a section near the top which is divided for safety.

Kawerau's King of the Mountain

www.kaweraukingofthemountain.co.nz

The township of Kawerau, which is situated inland from the Bay of Plenty on the North Island of New Zealand, was established in 1954 when the Tasman Pulp & Paper Mill began construction on the outskirts of the township. As with Pomona, Kawerau sits in the shadows of Putauaki (PU Mount; TAUAKI High Point), also known as Mt. Edgecombe.

As is often the case, a friendly bet was the starting point for this event, when in 1954 two locals competed for the fastest time to the summit and back. The following year two local businessmen fronted up 50 pounds as a first prize in the first 'official' race, with Jim Chadwick crowned the inaugural King and he went on to win 8 titles during the 50's & 60's.

Races were sporadic and often held unofficially during the 60's & early 70's, until 1977 when the Tasman Pulp & Paper Mill became the principal sponsors of the race and it has been held annually since.

Kawerau is a longer 7.5km race leaving from the local Rugby grounds, taking a route via a forestry road which leads to a steep trail through the foothills of Mt. Edgecombe, before an even steeper trail climb to the summit. The uphill is tough but the downhill is tougher, with a scoria base, gnarly rocks and vegetation, followed by the run back to the Rugby grounds.

A comparison of the two mountains

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Location Pomona (AUS) Kawerau (NZ)
Mountain Name Mt Cooroora Putauaki (Mt Edgecombe)
Height (ASL) 438m 820m
Race Distance 4.2 kms 7.5 kms
Inaugural Race 1/9/1979 29/1/1955
Outright Male Record 22:43

2009

Neil Labinsky

45:31

2016

Shay Williamson

Outright Female Record 27:49*

2016

Ruby Muir

54:09

1995

Meagan Edhouse

*  Sue Malaxos ran a time of 27:48  on the course prior to when records were reset to allow for slight adjustments in the course.