She’s not yet in her teens, but Hautapu School’s Leila Walker has four world titles, is a current New Zealand champion and has captained a national BMX team.
Now she can add NZCT AIMS Games champion to the list. But she didn’t have it all her own way.
Leila won three of her qualifying motos at Tauranga BMX track today, but was pipped by great rival Megan Williams (John Paul College) in the fourth. She had also lost out to Megan in the time trial earlier in the week.
The pair were neck and neck out of the final bend of today’s girls’ year 7 final, Leila just holding Megan out on the run in to the line.
“It feels good,’’ said Leila. “I just wanted to try my hardest and hopefully I would get the win.’’
The boys’ year 7 title went to current 12 Boys national champion James Whyte from Tuakau College. The one, two, three of Whyte, Will Coombes (Rototuna Junior High) and Logan Hill (Cambridge Middle School) mirrored the finishing order of Tuesday’s time trial and this year’s 12 Boys national final.
James said that while Will pushed him hard on the track, they were good mates off it.
The trip all the way from Invercargill was worthwhile for Verdon College’s Ruby Laidlaw, who won the girls’ year 8 final. Ruby, current 13 Girls 1nz, said after a good series of races in the qualifying motos and the semi-final, she was confident of doing well going into the final, and nothing really went wrong for her.
Bennett Greenhough from St Peter’s, Cambridge, the boys’ year 8 winner, made` `probably the best gate I’ve ever done’’ in the final. But he almost undid his good work to let Tauranga Intermediate’s Oliver Robinson put in a challenge.
“ I didn’t get the best corner and didn’t have that much speed going into the third straight – but it was a good outcome in the end,’’ he said.
Two of the sports stars were on hand to see today’s BMX racing.
Olympians Sarah Walker and Trent Jones were both thrilled to see the sport debut at this year’s NZCT AIMS Games.
“It’s incredible for intermediate kids to have something to work towards and it’s very exciting for all of them,’’ said Sarah.“It’s so great for the sport to be involved because the AIMS Games is such a prestigious thing for kids to go to, so for BMX to be part of that is really, really cool.
“The fact that BMX is at the Olympic Game means they are bringing in a sport that has a pathway to that elite level.’’
But, she said, equally important was the fact that it was encouraging people to try their hand at the sport.
“It looks like everyone’s having a really good time, which is the most important thing. I’ve seen quite a few of the typical BMX people that usually do well, but I’m more keeping an eye out for those kids for who, potentially, this is their first BMX race outside a normal club night. It’s those kids who are the important ones to get here.’’
Trent Jones started riding at an even earlier age than the students he saw today.
“Whangarei BMX club did and interschool challenge, a fun day of racing. I entered from Waipu Primary School and went along and that’s how I got started and 11 years later I’m at the Olympics,’’ said the Rio Olympian.
He was impressed with the day’s on track action.
“There’s been a lot of good racing going on between the kids and some good fields out there – it’s good to see the number of riders.’’