William Colenso College's rapid uptake of waka ama is beginning to return results for the Napier secondary school, both on the water as well as in the classroom.
The college was among a number of Hawke's Bay schools which competed at the National Secondary Schools Waka Ama Championships at Tikitapu, Blue Lake, near Rotorua from March 19 to 22.
Principal Daniel Murfitt said middle school outdoor education teacher Jason White introduced a waka ama programme in 2011 and this was the second year the school had competed at the national champs.
"Jason started off with Year 8 students with the vision of getting them to the nationals in 2012.
"There's only two groups they can compete in, under 16s and under 19s, so last year we had 12- and 13-year-olds in the under 16 grade.
"They struggled a bit but participated well against students a year or so older than them. This year we are starting to see them make some plate finals and next year our expectation is that they will contest the finals championships."
A partnership between the school's board, parents and the Maraenui Sports Club had helped to develop the programme further.
"It's been driven by strong family and board support. The kids have a lot of good equipment now, brand new paddles and a new boat, new uniforms. There's also a good mix of students becoming involved which is producing some good leaders.
"The older ones are supporting the young students, looking after the juniors, and there is a culture of high expectation around the sport which the kids thrive on."
Mr Murfitt said waka ama was beginning to have a positive knock on effect in the classroom as well.
"For an example, we had a certificate presentation for a regional waka ama tournament and all 24 students attended, which reflects their own expectations.
"Because of waka ama, they are attending school more and when they are attending more, they are working better in the classroom. They get a sense of belonging to the school and want to try harder."
Mr Murfitt visited the championship on Wednesday to see how his students and the rest of the Hawke's Bay schools were competing.
"It's not a huge event with about 92 schools going along which has grown from last year. They reckon it's second only to the [rowing] Maadi Cup in terms of the level of participation at secondary school level."
National Waka Ama Champs HB results:
U16 W6 Boys 500m Bowl final: William Colenso College - Te Ao Marama 4th.
U19 W6 Boys 500m Plate Final: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Ara Hou - Ki Te Hoe 4th.
U16 W6 Girls 250m Bowl Final: Hastings Girls High School - Rau Huia 3rd.
U19 W6 Girls 250m Plate Final: St Joesephs Msori Girls' College - Kereru 4th.
U19 W6 Boys 250m Plate Final: Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Ara Hou - Ki Te Hoe 3rd.
U16 W12 Mixed 250m Plate Final: Hukarere Maori Girls College (Combined with Rotorua Boys) 2nd.
U19 W1 Girls 250m Plate Final: Jaleighquar Rahiri from Hukarere Maori Girls' College.