THEIR finishing times were a bit more than an hour apart, but the efforts of year nine The Armidale School student Mac Orr and TAS Old Boy Richard Tombs said much about the spirit of the largest school team in this year's City to Surf foot race, held in cool conditions on 10 August.
More than 280 students, staff, parents and friends made up Team TAS, which this year united behind Tombs, a former Wallaby who suffered a debilitating injury in a soccer game last year that has confined him to a wheelchair.
First across the line for the school team was teacher Andrew O'Connell in a time of 55.25, bettering his sub-hour effort last year. Just over a minute behind in 56:41 was15 year old Mac Orr from Moree who was "very pleased" to have achieved his goal.
"I ran an hour and three minutes last year so was keen to make it under sixty minutes this time. I started in an earlier group which was less-crowded so I didn't have to zig-zag around walkers.
The toughest challenge was keeping a good pace going up Heartbreak Hill and although I hit a bit of a headwind then, I stepped things up from there," he said.
"I forgot to set my stop watch at the start until I was a couple of kilometres in so I wasn't really sure how I was going, but when it said I had hit the fifty minute mark I put on the pressure. It's a shame I was only thirty seconds off the TAS student record for the race, but that's something to aim for next year."
Meanwhile a group of runners including Year 11 student Lily Neilson took turns to push one of the school's best known alumni along the 14km course, breaking into applause when they crossed the finish line in 1:57:01.
"It was a great experience to have so many students support Richard but at the same time, supporting each other, as everyone pushed themselves in this way," she said.
Coordinator Jim Pennington said the efforts of all participants said so much.
"It showed that teenagers do care, they are not all dominated by technology and that challenge, empathy and compassion remain at the core of their values. Despite so many families suffering cruelly under the hardship of drought, our students and our community chose to give back to one of their own. Their enthusiasm to push Richard and introduce themselves to him was not just supportive of him and his family but says much about the growth in character that such opportunities enable."