For sprinter Ethan Holman, overcoming setbacks has become a regular occurrence.

There was a broken leg playing rugby at Tauranga Boys' College that set his progress back and then in his final year, he managed to pull a hamstring lunging for the finish tape at a warm-up meeting in Auckland a week before the secondary school nationals.

But the 19-year-old proved setbacks like those can make you a more determined athlete by making the New Zealand 4x100 relay team that performed so well at the world under-20 champs in Poland in 2016.

This month he hit top form in winning two under-20 national titles at the NZ Track and Field Championships in Hamilton.

Advertisement

He won the 100m sprint and was part of the 4x100m winning relay team plus surprised himself by winning silver in the 200m sprint final.

Hitting the tape first in the 100m final was a special feeling after what he had been through.

"It feels great. When I crossed that finish line in first place I just thought 'oh wow'. I knew I had trained harder than anyone in the off-season heading into summer and I knew it was in me. Getting that victory was sweet. It was good.

"I ran 10.99 (seconds) to win the 100 but it was a 2.0 head wind which is really strong so to go sub-11 in those conditions is actually pretty insane. I was stoked to do that. I have had just one tail wind all season so it has been pretty frustrating."

Holman was delighted to add two further medals at the potentially career-changing nationals.

"The 200 is my weaker event but I came second. I was hoping to win it to get the [sprint] double but I was still happy with silver considering it was just my second 200 for the whole season. The 4x100 relay was good to win. It was quite funny because I didn't get a warm-up for it and I was running last."

Holman's coach Kerry Hill has coached some top class sprinters around the world including Tauranga's Joseph Millar, who will compete at the Commonwealth Games next month.

Hill says Holman has improved greatly and trained so well to beat Nick Smith from Wellington for the first time to win the 100m title.

"[The win] gives him confidence in the systems he is using and motivation to stay with it. It also legitimises the fact that he has just kept on keeping on. That is full credit to his personality and his family support," Hill said.

"Now he faces next season when he will be 20 against seniors who are around 26, 27, 28 so he has to wait a few years for his turn. He has to chip away at his personal best and keep climbing through the ranks of those [older] runners."

Lifting his aggression in training to match Millar is a work-on for Holman over the next year.

"You need to do it safely without getting injured but he will lift that. I think Joseph [Millar] might have been born with more talent and he has maximised his but there are others who may have been as good at a younger age who lacked belief," Hill said.

"Ethan has a great work ethic."