A long-term goal for Te Puke middle distance runner Daniel Hintz is about to become a reality.
The lure of a full scholarship to a top American university has driven Hintz through plenty of ups and downs during his rapid rise to becoming New Zealand's top junior runner.
Hintz, who turned 19 on Sunday, finally got the news he wanted last week when he was awarded a full track and field scholarship to the prestigious University of Wyoming in Laramie, beginning in August.
"Full scholarships are rare and it is a lot of money. I will compete for the university and they pay all my degree fees and travel, insurance, you name it," Hintz said.
"I will be training with the US Schools 800m champion from two years ago and he is fast. He ran 1.47 which would beat the New Zealand record. The coach says the team is quite new so it is a really good time for me to enter the university."
To achieve his goal Hintz had to shave an almost unrealistic amount off his personal best (PB) time for the 800m, after the Wyoming assistant coach set Hintz a challenge.
"I have been in contact with Wyoming for quite a while now and last year (he) said if I run sub-1.52 for 800 metres they will give me a full scholarship," Hintz said. "At that time I was doing a best time of 1.56.5 and I wanted to go to America so much. To be honest I didn't quite believe in myself when I set out to do it but it ended up coming true."
Hintz achieved his goal on the biggest stage of the summer at the 2016 Athletics New Zealand Track and Field Championships and Olympic trials held in Dunedin in March.
He set a personal best of 1.51.37 in his 800m under-20 final to take silver behind Wellington's James Preston. Hintz then won the 1500m gold in a time of 3:53.15.
"Both (800 and 1500) are important. The goal I set myself was in the 800 metres. That was my main mindset but in February in Hamilton I took 11 seconds off my 1500 PB from over four minutes to 3.51.06."
Hintz is following in the footsteps of another former Tauranga Boys' College athlete, Julian Oakley, who continues to star for the track team at Providence College in Rhode Island.
"He is an All-American now and has certainly done well for himself. He definitely motivates me.
"Setting goals, in the back of your mind you know what time Julian was running at your age and how can I be at that level. I am constantly comparing myself, which can be a good thing and a bad thing but it definitely drives me to be better.
"I'd like to thank Brad Smith, (Scott) Furness and Gareth Hyatt at Tauranga Boys'. They started it, they drove it and I took the wheel after that. I started cross country then the track, and the staff are definitely the reason why I am achieving what I am today."