The Otago Daily Times Class Act initiative identifies and celebrates the excellence of young people in our province.
This year the Otago Boys' High School recipients are Max Cunninghame and James Gardner. Congratulations to these fine young men.
Whether it be out in the wilderness or as a community organiser, Max always seems to know the right way forward.
The 17 year old has achieved success with orienteering and has spent their teenage years striving to help others.
When Max was about 5, their grandfather took them out into parks and forests and the pair would work out where they were. Their love of orienteering grew from there and now Max's skills are bringing success.
Orienteering involves a lot of focus and mental ability, along with the physical strength to keep up. Each race can range from a couple of kilometres to about 10km. They find it a nice mix of physical and mental ability that they enjoy. It is a personal style of race where you can not see what the other competitors are up to, so all you can do is worry about trying your best. They participated on South Island teams and in national tournaments. Max sees it as a bit of a long shot, but hopes to orienteer for a national level team one day.
Aside from orienteering, Max spends time as a Venturer, helping plan and lead outdoor activities. It was a great way to learn new skills and build a community with like minded people.
Max is also involved in community service, which started with Scouts where they worked on beach clean ups and conservation.
Most recently, Max served on the Dunedin Youth Council, on which they had helped make things like a multi-day arts festival a reality this year.
Max established the school's LGBTQ+ group, which meets on a regular basis to discuss issues and helps make the school a safer place for pupils. They enjoyed helping out the community, but it was also a way to pay back kindness they had experienced when they were younger.
When Max was 9 they had brain surgery and last year had knee surgery. They spent a lot of time out of school and wanted to both make up for those lost opportunities and pay back the people who had supported them by creating new opportunities for them.
South Island orienteering team (2019-2022), National orienteering long U14 2nd (2019), middle U18 (2022); Otago schools championships 1st (2019,2020,2022) 2nd (2018), South Island championships long and middle 2nd (2019); level 1 ski instructor (2021); Otago Ski Club best junior skier (2020,2022); Otago debating development squad (2022); Faigan Memorial literature prize (2021); head service prefect (2022); Opoho Venturers executive, chai (2019-2022); Dunedin Youth Council executive, chair (2021-2022); Coastal Otago Venturers council member (2020-2022); school LGBTQ+ co-ordinator (2022); Statistics scholarship (2021); Biology Olympiad (2020); Level 1,2,3 excellence (2020,2021).
Role model: Their primary school teacher Mrs Yeoman.
Hopes for the future: To study statistics and English at the University of Otago.
James Gardner has taken away national championships in road cycling. The 17 year old has seen success in both road cycling and mountain biking.
When his is not on his bike, James is working in a bike shop or working hard at school in his efforts to become an engineer, an interest he found through cycling.
Road cycling and mountain biking are different disciplines, each requiring specific training and a disciplined approach to the many aspects relating to the requirements of each bike, terrain and race. Competitions can be intense, but he finds it important to learn from each experience.
He attributes a lot of his success to his attitude of learning, balancing off and on the bike and preparing mentally and physically, which has been ingrained in him by his mentors, the local riding community and the Otago Academy of Sport.
He believes the most important thing is to enjoy being on the bike. If he has fun, the results follow.
In July he travelled to the United States to compete in the Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago with the MitoQ NZ Cycling Project team.
Cycling NZ U19 national road race champion (2022); U17 individual time trial champion (2021); Cycling New Zealand Criterium National Championships (2021); U17 National Champion (2021); Cycling New Zealand National Road Series U17 National Champion (1st Crit, 1st ITT and 1st Zwift) (2021); MitoQ New Zealand Cycling Project Team (2020-2022); HPSNZ Otago Academy of Sport Year 3 Athlete (2020,2021, 2022); Otago Sports emerging talent finalist (2022); Fight for Yellow 2 Day Stage Tour - A Grade Overall Winner General Classification (2022); Cycling NZ Criterium National Championships U19 5th (2022); Southland Festival of Cycling Gore to Invercargill 1st overall (2022); Lake Dunstan Road Race 96km 2nd overall (2022); Yunca Junior Tour of Southland-Runner-up General Classification U17 (2021); New Zealand Junior U19 Development, Yunca Tour of Southland (2021); Level 1,2 excellence (2020,2021); Academic Blues (2021,2022); year 12 first in physics (2021); year 12 first in metalwork (2021); Commendations (2020, 2021).
Role model: His cycling mentor Chris Henderson, for putting him on the right path and making sure he remembers to have fun.
Hopes for the future: To study engineering and continue cycling.