Whanganui athletic Christian Conder has hit the ground running after accepting a scholarship to the University of North Florida in August last year.

While the 19-year-old Wanganui Collegiate School old boy approached several American universities, North Florida suited best for both academic studies and track and cross country performance.

Conder is one of New Zealand's emerging track and cross country talents and was named captain of the New Zealand team for the World Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Budapest in 2016, although a niggling in-flight injury hindered his chances of producing his best.

He was a silver medallist at the 2016 New Zealand Secondary Schools in the 1500-metres and rated second best under-18 over the same trip in 2015. His personal best for his favoured 1500m is 3.58. To put that into perspective a 3.43 1500m time is equivalent to a sub four minute mile.

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Conder's Collegiate coach Alec McNab is confident he has the potential to become another Nick Willis (Kiwi Olympic 1500 medallist).

"He's getting there and has the talent to do it," McNab said.

In a telephone interview with the Chronicle, Conder said he had settled into university life well in Jacksonville, Florida and had already made good friends, most of whom were also in the same athletics team.

North Florida is a division one school under the National College Athletics Association banner and while it did not make the national championships last year, it did finish second in its North American Atlantic Sun conference, a collegiate athletic conference operating mostly in the Southeastern United States.

Collectively the university's teams are affectionately known as the Ospreys.
Conder is studying computer science in a four-year scholarship while he trains under head athletics coach Jeffrey Pigg.

"It's funny, one of my team mates here was also in Budapest, although we never met. I love it here and it wasn't too much of a culture shock," Conder said.

"The food is quite different on campus, but it's generally fairly healthy stuff and I tend to stick to me own diet very well anyway. The team environment is awesome and we spend a lot of time together.

"There are three tiers in the university competition and North Florida is division one and while we didn't make the nationals this year (2017), we did finish second in our own conference. Arizona won the nationals and that's where Geordie Beamish (former Wanganui Collegiate team mate) is. So is Matt Baxter from New Plymouth who I've raced against. He got second in the national cross country. I wasn't there to see it live, but watched it on-line - it was exciting to watch."

Conder has adjusted to college dorm life and has a room-mate.

"He's great and is on the team with me, Our goal for 2018 is win our conference first then take it from there. I'm running quite well at the moment and I'm happy with my performances," Conder quipped.

The teenager managed to escape the main force of Hurricane Irma that threatened Florida in early September forcing the university to cancel studies for a time.
Conder posted on facebook at the time of the hurricane that was was safe:

"Hi everyone. Thanks for your concerns. I'm in Tallahassee with my room-mate's family. There will still be a strong storm, but we will not be hit with the full force of the hurricane.

In other news. I've now had three weeks of classes and everything is going well. I'm really enjoying being in Jacksonville and other than this hurricane the weather has been pretty good. I've got a good group of guys on the xc (cross country) team that I train with daily and I'm looking forward to me first race."

Meanwhile, he will be far from lonely over the Christmas/New Year period - his father Rob Conder, mother Paula and his siblings Thomas and Ben, are currently in the United States spending Christmas and New Year with their son and brother.