Successful Hawke's Bay triathlon coach Tim Jardine admits there is a gap between athletes in his stable and those from Auckland.
"I've looked at the Aucklanders. Their preparation is so thorough particularly with the running and cycling disciplines ... we're a couple of years behind. However the gap can definitely be reduced," Jardine said.
The 2009 Triathlon New Zealand coach-of-the-year can be proud of the progress he has made to date this summer with his eight-strong team. Jardine attributes his team's relationship with the Heretaunga Sundevils Swimming Club as well as the scoring of a sponsorship deal with Mammoth as key factors in the success.
"Our triathletes get quality swimming coaching at the Sundevils and we have picked up the odd competitors who have dropped out of swimming but still want to keep active. Our Mammoth deal allowed us to travel as a team to the South Island recently," Jardine said.
With two rounds remaining in the national series, promising Napier Boys' High School 14-year-old Devon Beckman is first equal in the 13-15 years age group. He finished second in the Christchurch and Wanaka rounds over the sprint distance - 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run - and seventh in Sunday's Taupo-hosted round.
Auckland University-bound Sam Kettle is second in the 18-19 years age group. He finished second in Wanaka, third in Christchurch and seventh in Taupo.
Otago University-bound Pearson Williams is in the same age group as Kettle and also has a swimming background. He finished fourth in Christchurch and fifth in Taupo.
"Sam and Pearson have plenty of promise. Because they have swimming backgrounds, it's only their cycling and running skills that need developing," Jardine said.
"Their improvement has been fantastic and, once their university days are over, they could develop further."
Hayley Davis is first equal in the series in the 25-30 years age group after recording wins in Christchurch and Wanaka. Jardine has coached her for five years and describes her as "an inspiration and mentor" to her teammates.
Otago University-bound Nikki Powell is first in the series in the 20-24 years age group. She finished second in Wanaka, third in Christchurch and withdrew from the Taupo event.
Like Jardine, Powell, has qualified for the October World Cup grand final in Auckland.
Jeremy Natusch finished fourth in the 30-34 years age group in Taupo.
This was a build-up race for him to the Wellington-hosted final round where he will attempt to qualify for the World Cup final over the Olympic distance of a 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.
"Our triathletes are at the sub-elite stage. The goal is to get them to the elite stage," Jardine said.
"I've always maintained Hawke's Bay has the ideal training environment ... a great climate, plenty of hills which Ramblers Cycling Club rides take in, plenty of swimming pools and the handy running track," Jardine, who arrived in the Bay from Taranaki 12 years ago, said.
While triathlon is regarded as an individual sport, Jardine is convinced it is best practised within a team environment.
His results are the perfect evidence ... watch the gap close.