By Christopher Reive, Dasha Kuprienko and Te Ahua Maitland
Running is in Maia Flint’s genes.
The Tauranga Rudolf Steiner School student got the NZCT AIMS Games off to a flyer today, beating 130 other runners to claim the Year 7 title at the annual intermediate schools tournament in Tauranga.
A first-year runner, Flint said she didn’t know what to expect and knew she had to go her hardest to stay in front.
“I possibly could have done better but I don’t know,” Flint said. “I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.”
Although they don’t run a cross country at her school, Flint trains with her parents, who both run socially, and said that has been helpful.
Flint’s mother, Michelle, said they often run up Mauao and Maia waits for her at the top.
“She genuinely just loves to run,” Michelle Flint said. “From an early age, we’ve had to say ‘no you can’t come, you’re too young’.”
Flint led from beginning to end in the opening race, finishing the tough 3km Waipuna Park course in 11mins 25sec.
Rosa Blake from Christchurch’s Heaton Normal Intermediate was second, 18secs back, with Isabella Richardson (St Cuthbert’s College) claimed third in 11:48.
Auckland’s Zane Powell took out the Year 7 boys race, proving he’s the king of age-group cross country.
The 12-year old now has a winner’s medal from the NZCT AIMS Games, to go with wins at the New Zealand and North Island championships.
“I thought I went pretty well,” the Somerville Intermediate student said. “I’ve been training throughout the whole season.”
Going into the 1km mark, Powell was challenged by Tauranga Intermediate’s Corban Crowther. Powell said he had to push really hard to shake Crowther off.
“I had to keep trying and not let him pass me,” Powell said.
Tested for most of the race, Powell put some space between himself and his challengers coming up the hill at Waipuna Park around the 2km mark.
From there he managed to hold his lead and sprinted to the finish line, clocking 10:36. Crowther finished 6secs behind Powell in second, with George Lambert (Hunterville Consolidated School) a further 11secs behind in third.
Powell, who trains at the Pakuranga Athletic Club, takes his third winners medal in as many months, winning the B12 grade 2km race at the North Island Champs in July, and the under-13 boys’ 2km race at the New Zealand championships in August.
Powell’s mother Kim said he’s had a good season. “He just wanted to finish it off today.”
Gisborne athlete Briana Irving, meanwhile, smashed the Year 8 cross country record – even though she almost didn’t make the starting gun.
Irving (Gisborne Intermediate) finished in 10:58, a full 10secs faster than the 2014 record.
After the race, mum Belinda Irving said her daughter was feeling sick before the race and looked unlikely to run.
“She’s actually sick,” the proud mum said. “Honestly, at about 10.30am we didn’t even know if she was going to run or not.”
Although Irving’s does hill sprinting in training , she still struggled to conquer a notoriously difficult hill on the Welcome Bay course.
“I was dying up that hill,” she said.
Irving beat second-placed Charli Miller from Hamilton’s Fairfield Intermediate by 26secs and admitted it was an unexpected win by an unexpected margin.
Back in Gisborne, Irving is the only child training alongside adults. They train 3-4 times a week and Irving is pushed as hard as the adults. She’s convinced that experience helped her win.
The talented young runner nearly had two records under her belt – at last year’s AIMS Games, Irving was second behind Lucy Kokich, with both runners dipping under the record.
Will Taylor struck a blow for the South Island schools on the first day, with the Cobham Intermediate student winning the Year 8 boys’ race, out-sprinting Finn Seeds (Hutt International) in the home straight, after Seeds led most of the way.
Taylor admitted he didn’t know how he won the 3 km race.
“I didn’t really have much energy, so I thought he [Seeds] would’ve taken it,” he said.
He confessed he didn’t really have a strategy, but tried to not let the front-runner get too ahead.
“Every time I got to a hill, I just tried to sprint hard up it to try and catch up,” he said.
Taylor clocked 10:24, with Seeds just 4secs adrift in the closest margin of the day. Oliver Puchner (Tauranga Intermediate) was third in 10:39.
Tauranga Intermediate had further success in the event-ending championship relay, regaining bragging rights over a cross-town rival in the highly anticipated cross-country relay.
Today’s showdown saw Tauranga dominate long-time rivals Otumoetai Intermediate with a time of 40:59 in the 12km event.
The win broke a two-year streak by Otumoetai and gave Tauranga their ninth victory in the 12-year history of the event.
Tauranga Intermediate Year 8 runner Thomas Friskney was ecstatic with the win.
“It definitely felt great to beat our rivals,” he said.
Tauranga also set a new relay record, breaking Otumoetai’s record set last year.
Friskney said their record-breaking run was “impressive.”
The Tauranga team was made up of 11 Year 7 and Year 8 boys and girls, with each member running 1km each, except for one who ran twice.
Friskney ran sixth and said their strategy was to “just go hard.”
The two Bay of Plenty Intermediates have dominated the relay in recent years with Tauranga previously winning eight out of nine races, before Otumoetai took the title in 2013 and 2014.
Tauranga led the pack the entire race, before pulling away considerably from the rest by the final lap.
Bucklands Beach Intermediate from Auckland finished third.
See full results here: http://www.thetimingteam.co.nz/results/index.php?thread=1396930374