Wade Mongta of Bodalla is headed to the New York City Marathon after being one of just 12 Aboriginal men and women from across Australia selected to the 2016 Indigenous Marathon Project squad.
And Wade, aged 19, beat out a record number of nearly 200 applicants and just happens to be the youngest in the squad but that shouldn’t stop this young athlete from performing, as he is super fit and can be seen running along the Princes Highway from his hometown of Bodalla as far as Moruya and Narooma.
When the telephone call came from IMP head coach Mick Rees the other week, it was an emotional moment for him and his mother.
“When I got the phone call, Mick said 184 had applied and lot of good people missed out this year,” Wade said. “He said I should be really proud of the trial run and the effort I gave on that day. Then he said ‘Congratulations, you’ve been selected as one of the six men’ and I said ‘No way, are your sure’ and then we burst into tears and cried.”
Wade has never been overseas and is looking forward to seeing a different part of the world.
“Going to one of the world’s biggest cities from a tiny place like Bodalla is going to be a bit of an eye-opener,” he said.
His mother was there for the try-out at the Bodalla sportsground in February and said Wade had showed promise from an early age having won his first State medal at age 12 while attending Bodalla Public School for long jump.
“My childhood and lifetime dream has been to run for Australia,” Wade said, and he enjoys sprinting and distance running.
Now he is known to going on long runs either west along Eurobodalla Road or even on the highway to Moruya. And athletics ran in the family with his cousin Angie Blackburn having trained at the Australian Institute of Sport, while another cousin ran in the Stawell Gift sprint race.
Wade is now following a strict training schedule and has already been told by the head coach to cut down on the long distance runs so he does not wear himself out.
Wade will need help to make the journey and the community is set to rally around the young athlete, so grab yourself a slice of New York at a pizza night coming up on Saturday, May 21.
Come support Wade for his running quest for New York at the Bodalla community pizza oven located one door up from Bodalla post office. Pizza will be served at 5pm
“Meet Wade and his sponsor Cameron Williams from Riverside Pizza and have a great night,” community member and Wade support Ben Stainer said. “Spread the word bring your family and friends. Absolutely everybody welcome.”
Fundraising and all donations will go towards helping wade with expenses such as transport, physiotherapist, and training wear, Mr Stainer said.
Wade and the squad will meet for the first time in Canberra on May 11 for their first training camp, which will also include training sessions and the first units of their education component, aimed at assisting with employment in health related fields.
Athletes will be pushed to their limits throughout the year as they participate in camps and running events in the Gold Coast, Sydney and Alice Springs. The final squad to travel to New York in November will be announced following a 30km time trial in Alice Springs in September.
Wade described on IMP website
Wade's Indigenous heritage is with the Ngariga tribe and lives in Bodalla, NSW. Wade lives is a community where violence and drug abuse is common, and he is determined to use IMP to show people a different life and demonstrate that if you apply yourself you can achieve incredible things. He is extremely driven and very committed to training. IMP has been Wade’s target for the last few years and his determination is unquestionable, clocking up 20km training runs in the lead up to the IMP trials. Wade is the first person in his family to reach year 12 and puts reading the dictionary among his hobbies; again, with one goal in mind. “I had to come down here (to the trials) and be articulate, be formal not informal,” he said. He has harboured a burning ambition to succeed at the top level since he was a child, wanting to run for Australia since he was five years old. Wade believes that your past can make or break you and his past is what has made him.
Record number of applicants
The achievements and success of the Indigenous Marathon Project’s (IMP) Graduates right across the country have provided the footprint of inspiration for 2016, with a record number of applications received for the 2016 squad.
The IMP is a key program of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF), established in 2009 by world champion marathon runner, Robert de Castella, that annually trains and mentors a squad of 12Indigenous Australians to run the New York Marathon with just six months of training. The IMP also provides a compulsory educational pathway with all squad members required to complete a Certificate III in Fitness.
In just seven years, the IMP has ignited a running culture in indigenous communities across the country where distance running was once unheard of. The IMP has since graduated 53 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island men and women, who have inspired a ripple effect to thousands of other Indigenous Australians nation-wide.
The 2016 IMP squad includes six female and six male runners who were selected from a record number of 183 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applications from, small remote, regional and city indigenous communities nationwide.
Indigenous lawyer from Broome, Megan Highfold, was incredibly inspired by 2014 IMP Graduate, Adrian Dodson-Shaw who went on to become the first indigenous Australian to travel to the North Pole and also finish the North Pole Marathon.
“I saw the incredible impact the program had on Adrian and his life, and I knew this was my last shot. I turn 30 this year and that is the age limit to be part of IMP,” she said. “I am so passionate about the health of my people, particularly mental health. It is such a chronic issue in the lives of indigenous Australians and I am determined to influence positive social change and continue the legacy Adrian has already created.”
Similarly, Murray Bridge representative, Candice Love, has seen the impact of IMP following 2013 IMP graduate, Luke McKenzie and more recently 2015 graduate, Daniel Lloyd.
IMP annually selects, educates, and trains a group of outstanding Indigenous Australians to compete alongside 47,000 other competitors at the world’s biggest marathon.
The IMP also provides an educational pathway with all squad members required to undertake a Certificate III in Fitness as a compulsory part of the program. IMP, now in its seventh year, has mentored and trained 53 indigenous runners cross the finish line of a number of major international marathons, including New York, Boston and Tokyo.
Squad members begin their 2016 marathon journey with stories of hardship, sacrifice and determination as they face a gruelling six months of training to prepare for one of the biggest challenges of their lives.
IMP Founder and former world champion marathon runner, Rob de Castella, said the record number of high quality applications highlighted the powerful message being sent to indigenous Australia.
“This year we received nearly 200 applications from indigenous people who are committed to driving change, and through running, encouraging healthy lifestyles in their communities,” he said. “Many applicants were inspired by IMP’s 53 graduates and have witnessed their life changing transformation, in addition to watching the graduates continue to achieve long after their marathon finish.
“Our primary goal is to promote healthy lifestyles, increase pride, instil a sense of achievement and have a positive impact on social dysfunction and lifestyle related illnesses.”
Head Coach and manager, Mick Rees, undertook a two month national tour conducting trials in 26 regional, remote and city communities across the country.
He said the next six months is one of responsibility and sheer hard work for the squad members.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the squad we have selected and I know they will embrace this opportunity, and they are equally aware of the work ahead to reach their marathon goal,” Mr Rees said. “To arrive at a squad of 12 from 183 incredibly worthy and talented applicants was extremely tough, and I was extremely impressed that so many of the unsuccessful applicants indicated they would be back again next year to try again.
“The 2016 squad represents a significant cross-section of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island cultures from major cities, regional centres and small remote communities. They embrace the qualities of resilience, strength of mind and character, and an unquestionable determination to inspire their communities, their families and just as importantly, themselves. The next six months will change their lives. And they’re ready for the challenge.”