Esther Keown has had little time to reflect on her new-found status as a world champion, already acknowledging her next international assignment will be much tougher with a place in the final a more realistic target than a repeat podium finish.
Just back from the Czech Republic where she stunned the 66-strong field in winning the World Secondary Schools Cross-country Championship, Keown now has her sights set on the 1500m at July's World Junior Track and Field Championships in Poland.
Keown, of Auckland Girls' Grammar, will be 16 when she lines up in Poland but will almost certainly be the youngest in the field in a race open to contestants under 20 years of age.
Being the youngest is nothing new for Keown. She was the youngest member of the six-strong victorious New Zealand team at the championships in Zdar-Nad-Sazavou.
It was not all plain sailing for the diminutive Keown.
"On the uphill just after the start an Algerian girl grabbed the back of my singlet and tried to drag me back," said Keown. "I whacked her hand away and was soon able to get clear."
On a tough three-lap (each 1km) course through testing meadows, Keown gradually pulled away leaving her Algerian tormenter to finish fifth - one place behind the second New Zealander Hannah Newbold (Cashmere HS) and a place ahead of Nicki McFadzien (Villa Maria). Olivia Burns (Palmerston North GHS) finished 12th to secure the team championship.
Other team members Hannah Morgan (Diocesan) and Sophie Corbridge (Kristin) finished 21st and 25th respectively to complete a bold showing by the New Zealanders who took team honours from Algeria and England.
Kayla Cullen would love to have part-time work to help fund her sporting aspirations but, like many, she can't fit a job around a hectic training regime.
The Auckland Girls' Grammar sixth-former faces another "can I, can't I" sporting dilemma as she pursues her dream of playing netball and basketball internationally this year.
Selected in the New Zealand SS netball team to go to Australia this month, Cullen must find the mandatory $500 contribution by Friday week.
"I have no clue how I'm going to pay by then," said Cullen from a solo parent family and the second-youngest of seven children. "Mum is a solo parent and dad tries to help but it is not easy."
Later in the year she is keen to join the Emerging Tall Ferns basketball team on their overseas tour. Again, her chances of playing internationally will depend on meeting the financial commitment.
While Netball New Zealand appears to be relatively secure financially, their basketball counterpart has long had a user-pays policy needing to prop up funds in this way.
AGGS schoolmate Esther Keown found herself in a similar situation last year when she and older sister Annie were selected in the New Zealand under-15 lacrosse team to tour Canada but had to opt out. Keown had to find most of the $5000 she needed for the Czech Republiccross-country event. Around $1000 came from sponsorship and a small contribution from AGGS staff members. The rest was provided by her family. She now has to find $3000 of the $6000 needed to compete in Poland.
Mt Roskill Grammar (representing Auckland) and Orewa College (North Harbour) have won through to the NZSS finals in Wellington after wins in the local inter-collegiate tournaments.
With a solid team effort led by Tom Khor, who scored 40 stableford points, MRGS beat St Kentigern by just one stroke at Maungakiekie in the 18-team competition. Scott McAlpine (St Kentigern) fired the best round - a one-over 71.
The best round of the day, however, was shot by Larissa Eruera (St Cuthbert's) with a two-under 69 off the ladies' tees. She also amassed 36 stableford points.
It was just as close at South Head where Orewa College edged Westlake BHS by one stroke to take the North Harbour contest involving 16 teams.
Todd Baek spearheaded the Orewa charge with his 71 and was well-supported by Michael Campbell (72). Liam Cox (73) was the best of the Westlake quartet.
The national final will be held in Wellington from September 5-7, during winter tournament week.
Just a few kilometres from Eden Park, a replay of last year's final between Mt Albert Grammar and De La Salle College will herald the start of the new 1st XV season.
MAGS, this time at home, will be looking for more of what they produced when they beat season pace-setters De La Salle 27-18 in that keenly-contested final.
In two warm-up matches, MAGS beat Manurewa High 26-15 and followed that with a 31-12 win over Tamaki College who start their campaign at Auckland Grammar and will be looking to repeat last year's upset win.
The most disconcerting aspect of MAGS' win over Tamaki was that only two of their six tries were converted.
AGS warmed up for the new season with comfortable romps - 61-6 over Takapuna Grammar and 43-12 over Rangitoto College.
They then had a sterner test, on Saturday, before getting home 11-6 over Tauranga Boys' College in the annual fixture.
King's will be after a winning start when they visit St Kentigern in another interesting first round clash while there will be the usual interest in the battle between Sacred Heart and St Paul's at Sacred Heart.
An off-field wrangle has left one of the feature first round matches in the Auckland senior A1 championship on Saturday without a referee.
The game between two former national premier champions Westlake BHS and Rangitoto College has no official referee assigned and is almost certain to go ahead without one. The situation has arisen following a call from northern federation United Soccer 1 for all school players - who are not members of US1 clubs - to be affiliated to the federation.
A fee of $35 per player has been mooted but so far has drawn a blank with schools, who pay $50 per team to play in the Auckland Secondary Schools Football Association's competitions, understandably, reluctant to pay.
For their part, US1 have decreed that any referees on their books should be assigned to affiliated clubs and not unaffiliated schools.
US1 chief executive Keith Johnston said he was surprised the issue had been raised as he had not had any contact with the ASSFA for more than a year.
"We have long tried to get the schools' association to acknowledge their players need to be members of US1. We suggested they should play their leagues midweek which could give us the chance to provide referees," said Johnston. "We have a standing policy that our referees are expected to control club games as a priority."
Johnston said he had expected John Morris, the chairman of New Zealand Football, to "broker a deal" which would see schools integrated with the country's federations but said "we have been spectacularly unsuccessful".
He added that he did not expect to see any affiliation fees this year and said "we won't be appointing any referees as a consequence".
Morris, who is also headmaster of Auckland Grammar School, is concerned that a senior match will not have an appointed referee. "This is not a New Zealand Football issue, it is a federation issue," said Morris.
"If he [Johnston] would like me to broker something why hasn't he spoken to me? This is a premier competition which needs referees. If money is the issue we would happily pay."
ASSFA secretary Ian McLaughlan said he had "found" referees for two games to be played in the US1 region on Saturday but not one for the WBHS-Rangitoto match at Westlake.
The make-up of the senior A1 competition will be known later today when St Peter's College play Pakuranga College in the second leg of their promotion-relegation series. The first match was drawn 0-0. VOLLEYBALL Auckland scored a breakthrough win over Bay of Plenty in the final of the Inter-provincial girl's championships in Hamilton.
It was the first time a team other than Bay of Plenty have won at this level and Auckland, led by tournament MVP Pogai Falemai (from the champion McAuley HS team) beat them twice to claim the honours. Bay of Plenty were the only team to take a set from the rampant Aucklanders.
After beating Bay of Plenty 3-1 first-up, they beat Hawkes Bay, Auckland Manukau and hosts Hamilton 3-0 to qualify for the much-anticipated final.
The defending champions won the first set 25-21 but Auckland, led by strong play from Margaret Lafaele (McAuley) and Rangitoto's Lydia McCormack, bounced back to take the second by the same score.
The Bay forced plenty of errors to take the third set 25-17 before Auckland, on the back of some good setting from Falemai, rebounded to again take the next by the same score. With some strong blocking at the net from Eseta Mark (McAuley), Auckland won the fifth and deciding set 15-8 and the title.
The boy's competition, like the girls, got away to a slow start when first round matches were transferred from the Te Rapa Sportsdrome to Fraser High School because of the rain which led to moisture on the court.
The Auckland boys lost some momentum but still managed a 3-1 win over Hamilton.
They then beat North Harbour by the same score but lost their semifinal to Auckland Manukau 3-2 after trailing 0-2.
In the play-off for third, Auckland beat Hamilton in a repeat of their 3-1 first round clash.