August 18, 2004
Five cross country runners from Gilbert’s Highland High School had the time of their lives in Australia while competing in races Down Under.
Highland seniors Craig Breinholt, Ryan Hummel and Auston Huerta, along with Highland graduates Eric McCain and Ed Puhlmann, joined 11 other Arizona residents to compete in two races with United States and Australian long-distance runners.
The teenagers visited Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast and Sydney, and brought home several medals from the trip, which took place July 15-27.
Besides the races, they went swimming in the Olympic Stadium pool, visited an Australian zoo and went to Sydney’s opera house. They took a ferry ride, fed koalas and kangaroos and saw Tasmanian devils.
"We caroused the town and visited the beach," said Auston, 17, who also placed last year in the Australian races. "The sand was perfect."
Craig won a gold medal in the 1.8-mile race featuring both United States and Australian runners. Auston won fifth place and Ryan got 14th place in the same race. The Arizona team as a whole received a gold medal based on the scoring of all the runners.
Craig, Ryan and Auston also took third place in the second race, running as a three-man team in the 4K relay.
After receiving invitations in November, the teenagers spent the months leading up to the trip coming up with the $3,100 each needed for the Down Under International Games. They sent letters to family and friends asking for help. They sold candles and candy, held raffles through the Gilbert Rotary Club and had yard sales.
Ryan’s dad, Mike Hummel, said the boys worked hard to raise the money themselves.
It was culture shock for the all-American boys in Australia, who still say their favorite Australian restaurants were the Hard Rock Cafe and Baskin-Robbins.
"Every restaurant sold a lot of Thai food and the hamburger had beets in it or something," said Craig, 17. "The meat was not good."
It also took them a while to get used to the cars driving on the left side of the street. They said they almost were hit when they kept looking the wrong way before crossing the road.
After enduring the 13-hour plane ride and the 17-hour time difference, which hit them when they returned home, the boys said they had a great time.