Winning the top spot in the Te Arawa primary school kapa haka competition was a "huge achievement" for Te Wharekura o Ngati Rongomai.
Ten Rotorua schools took part in the competition, at the Rotorua Girls' High School arena on Saturday.
The competition is held every two years, the top teams earning a place in the national competition, which is to be held in Whakatane towards the end of next year.
Second behind Te Wharekura o Ngati Rongomai was Kaitao Middle School, Rotorua Intermediate was third and a combined group from Rotoiti and Whangamarino schools finished fourth.
Ngati Rongomai's Renata Curtis said the win was a big accomplishment for their tamariki "It was unexpected because we were competing against intermediate-aged kids but it was humbling, exciting and a huge achievement for our tamariki."
The day had been made even more special by the presence of so many of Ngati Rongomai's kaumatua and kuia, who came to watch. "It makes it so rewarding to have the support of our whanau, it was awesome having them there," said Mrs Curtis.
Students from Year 2 to Year 8 were in their group, the youngest aged only 6. She said an effort had been made to ensure younger students were in the programme.
"Our programme highlighted our little kids, they're not just a number. To make it interesting for the eye, we tried hard to keep it as a children's kapa haka at a child's level, rather than creating an adult's programme."
Competition chairwoman Frances Wharerahi said the high quality of the performances was down to the students' hard work, and while some had grown up in the kapa haka arena, many had never done it before.
"I think every single student proudly represented their school, their iwi, their hapu, their whanau and, most importantly, themselves."
Ms Wharerahi said the outstanding performances on the stage showed there was a "bright future" for kapa haka in the region.
"Every child did well, it was a very high standard."
The competition is held every two years, with the four top teams earning a place in the national competition which will be held in Tauranga late next year.
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