Ivory Tilden and Gabriella Mayes are distance runners for Newton High School — both finished their freshman season on the cross country team running varsity. The distance: 5 kilometers, or 3.1 miles. This summer they will keep running, but the biggest distance they will travel will be in the air on their way to a big race.
Both have been selected to represent Kansas on the 2019 Down Under Cross Country Team. They will head to Queensland, Australia, in June to compete for both individual and team honors.
"I have always wanted to got to Australia," Tilden said. "When I got the letter, I was really happy about it. To be able to run there is a real plus."
At the AVCTL Championships in October, Mayes finished 15th with a time of 21 minutes, 31 seconds while Tilden finished 46th with a 25:46. Both were just shy of their personal bests of 21:23 and 25:23, respectively. Both girls were finishing up their freshman season.
They will both run in the 5K All-American Meet July 3. July 6 will be the "5.7K Gold Coast Run."
"I don't know if (success) will be the place I get; there will be a lot of people there from a lot of different countries," Mayes said. "I think I will go off of personal time."
Right now they are raising funds — needing about $5,000 each to be able to make the trip.
"We have been passing out flyers and talking to the (businesses) on Main Street to see if they would donate money for us," Tilden said.
Donations can be made online for each. Tilden's website can be found at DownUnderSports.com/ZWN-VAC. Mayes can be found at DownUnderSports.com/DWL-FBT.
They will spend 10 days traveling and competing in Austrailia — and there will be trips to an animal sanctuary and the beach.
"We will get to hold koalas and meet kangaroos," Mayes said.
"I am looking forward to beach volleyball," Tilden said.
The duo represent the first athletes from Newton to participate in the program that was established in 1989.
"I stole my brother's dream," Mayes said. "He has his own little (Austrailian) accent he talks in. When I got it, I was excited. It is a big opportunity."
The Down Under International Games includes American football; golf; cross country; track and field; basketball; volleyball; and soccer.
Melissa Tilden, Ivory's mother, said she is nervous about her daughter traveling so far away — but these opportunities do not come often.
"This is a great opportunity for both of them," Melissa Tilden said. "They have been doing (Down Under Sports) for a long time."