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Jamie Banhidi should have been kicking back yesterday afternoon, finding a shady spot to cool down on Mount Maunganui's Main Beach.
Instead the 16-year-old Bay of Plenty surf lifesaver was thrust into the white-hot heat of the open men's beach flags at the Lion Foundation Surf League, fighting against a field which included three world champions.
But Banhidi didn't blink _ he sawoff current world flags champion BenWillis (Wellington) and four otherprovincial sprinters, before finishing an astonishing third behind former world champion Morgan Foster and world interclub sprint champion Paul Cracroft-Wilson.
"I was a bit intimidated, definitely," Banhidi, who competes for the Papamoa club, said.
"Morgan's helped me out quite a lot with trainings and a bit of coaching but it was the first time amongst that sort of competition.
"It was a great experience and a privilege to come up against them."
Banhidi had to come a long way to compete on that stage yesterday, in front of several thousand spectators, under a withering sun.
His first club was Hot Water Beach, in the far-flung realm of the Bay of Plenty province, where his parents still live.
He is at boarding school in Hamilton but has been competing for Papamoa for three seasons, including winning the national under-16 flags title last year.
And after impressing in the under-19 ranks on the beach and as an IRBcrewman, Banhidi was rushed into the Bay open team as a replacement forMatt Strange, who was knocked unconscious in the IRB single rescue race on Saturday.
Banhidi ended up competing in 16 events throughout the weekend as the Bay open team finished fifth and the under-19s an excellent second behind Auckland.
His stamina was only matched by Mount Maunganui's Chelsea Maples, who won the under-19 flags both days, was second in the open flags both days, and picked up a handful of podium finishes in the sprints.
She also paired with Andrew Newton to win the board relay yesterday and competed in a full set of relays to total 20 events for the third year in a row.
But Bay's lack of open male depth was there for all to see, consigning the hosts' title defence to the doldrums as they slipped back behind rock-solid Taranaki, Canterbury and Auckland.
The under-19 team fared much better, only beaten by a remarkable Auckland effort that boasted six wins on the final day, including the glamour ironman and ironwoman titles to AJ Maney and Rachel Clarke respectively.
Aside from Maples' heroics, the only under-19 wins for Bay yesterday came from Joe Kayes and Katrina Madill in the mixed tube rescue.