Grace Holland was always going to be a rower.
Being the fifth generation of a rowing-mad Tauranga family made her first foray into a rowing skiff at age 4 inevitable.
Now 17, the Tauranga Girls' College rower could not imagine doing anything else, which helps when the winter chill sets in off the Tauranga Harbour for the 5.30am daily training starts.
Holland is about to start two months away from home, training fulltime at Rowing NZ's High Performance Centre at Lake Karapiro before she leaves with the New Zealand squad for the Junior World Rowing Championships in Lithuania in August.
Her versatility has helped gain her a place in the team. She will contest the women's coxless pair with Rosie Ireland (Diocesan School for Girls) and is a reserve for the coxless four and double scull teams.
"We are aiming for an A final and will just push as hard as we can to go as fast as we can over the next couple of months," Holland said.
Earlier this year Holland attended a gut-busting, six-day junior trial at Karapiro, rowing 200km in six days including a 35km endurance row in three hours.
"These sessions have been very mentally tough and have built us into competitive and tough athletes. You can win a race or lose just by an inch, so it has made a big difference," she said.
"The past two years of rowing for me have been building up to junior trials this year. I have been focusing on the double and quad as they were my best chances of standing out in over 2000 athletes at Maadi Cup.
"My coach Duncan Bydeley and [Tauranga Girls'] doubles partner Rebecca Frood have played a big part in this. We have trained for four years on water and ergs [rowing machine] during the season, and gym and ergs in the off-season [winter]."
Holland had to switch to rowing the pair for the first time at the trials after she missed out on the top two spots in the double and Rowing NZ decided not to send a quad boat to Lithuania.
"The pair is a very technical boat and takes a lot to master it, but I made it happen," she said.
"My coach Duncan always told us to make it happen or take a concrete pill, so I did. I was named to race my first ever pair race with Rosie Ireland from Auckland Dio for prognostics - a 2k race which is compared with the world's best time in percentage form."
Holland is part of the improving Tauranga Girls' College rowing programme that produced world champion and Olympian Zoe Stevenson.
"We have had our best season yet this year, and we hope to better it next year. Rowing teaches you a lot about team work and tolerance.
"People want to hire you because they know you work hard, are committed, and I find I get my schoolwork done better in the rowing season."
Holland needs to raise $10,000 to cover her training at Lake Karapiro and the trip to Lithuania. To donate go to givealittle.co.nz/cause/gracerowing.