Paige Schendelaar-Kemp says she's hoping to break a few records as the swim season hits its peak next month. Champ chasing strong grades in hunt for US scholarship and greater glory beyond Campbell Burnes
Pakuranga College's best swimmer is now readying herself for a big 2016 to sign off her school days.
Paige Schendelaar-Kemp is 17 and has her sights on the 2018 Commonwealth and 2020 Olympic Games in butterfly and freestyle. She is also a handy open water swimmer and picked up a silver at last month's nationals in Taupo in her age group for the 10km open swim.
Schendelaar-Kemp is grateful for one advantage. Although she lives in Remuera, she invariably spends most of her day at school, as the Howick Pakuranga Swim Club trains at the 33m Pakuranga College pool, where she racks up the mileage under coach Jana Wilkitzi, a former Olympian.
"I've been with her since I was 10, so we've built quite a good relationship. She knows how to push me. I thrive off a coach yelling at you," says Schendelaar-Kemp.
With 12 national age-group titles to her name, one could be forgiven for thinking her progress has been one big upward curve in recent years, but injury struck in 2014. She tore shoulder tendons, not good news for a butterfly exponent, and was 15 months out of competition, returning last July.
"I knew what it did to other swimmers. I wanted to come back better than ever. Since I'm back and healthy, I'm hoping to get back on top and break a few records."
She will have plenty of opportunity in the next few weeks as the height of the swim season takes hold. March sees the Pakuranga school swimming sports -- where she will enter almost everything -- the Central/Eastern zone champs and the Auckland Champ of Champs, plus club events. She will be busy, but knows her studies are a priority in her senior year.
"I'm focusing on making sure my academics are as good as my swimming. My main goal is to secure a swimming scholarship to the US, as there is not much opportunity here.
"My top [swimming] priority is the New Zealand age group champs in early April."
That will be on the North Shore and she intends to enter six butterfly and freestyle events.
Her short course 50m personal best for the fly is 28 seconds, putting her in the top 10 in the country.