THEIR finishing times were a bit more than an hour apart, but the efforts of The Armidale School year 9 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 in Sydney.
Held in cool conditions, more than 280 students, staff, parents and friends made up Team TAS - which was 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 minutes and 25 seconds, bettering his sub-hour effort last year.
Just over a minute behind him, in 56min 41sec, was 15-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," he said. "I started in an earlier group which was less-crowded so I didn't have to zigzag 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.
A group of runners, including TAS year 11 student Lily Neilson, took turns to push one of the school's best-known alumni, Tombs, along the 14km course - with applause ringing out when they crossed the finish line in one hour and 57.01 seconds.
"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," Neilson said.
TAS's coordinator for the event, Jim Pennington, said the efforts of all participants said so much.
"It showed that teenagers do care," he said. "They are not all dominated by technology - and that challenge, empathy and compassion remain at the core of their values."