When Mount Maunganui Intermediate student Poppy Lane lined up for the AIMS Games inaugural mountain bike race she already had five wins and one draw during the tournament and was eyeing a top five placing.
Instead, what the modest young athlete achieved was another win, finishing her Year 8 Girls 11km mountain bike race in first place with a time of 42min, 45.98sec, nearly three minutes ahead of second-placed Eva Fuller from Whakatāne Intermediate, who finished in 45min, 39.11sec. Before the race she said her goal was to do her best and aim for a top five spot.
The 13-year-old was pleased with her result, as were her parents Hamish and Merey Lane, her grandparents and her coach, who were all waiting at the finish line at Summerhill Mountainbike Park to congratulate her on her efforts.
Poppy, who was introduced to the sport by her dad, says she has always enjoyed mountain biking but has only recently been taking it more seriously, which includes coaching sessions with endurance mountain biker Tristan Haycock.
In the lead up to competition day, she has been getting out on to the track as often as she can while also taking part in other events. According to Poppy, "the best training for racing is racing", so she did a couple of Auckland races in the lead up and finished "middle of the pack".
"I just love getting out with my family and friends. And we live like 15 minutes away from here so once or twice a week were doing some laps," Poppy said.
"This is the year she's kind of really enjoyed it and made it more of her sport," Merey said.
Poppy's win on Thursday was her seventh during AIMS Games, also winning six football pool games and drawing another with her school team. Before she raced she was thinking about getting back to her football team for their quarter final game, expecting to arrive by the second half if she left straight after her ride.
The team won their quarter-final and their semifinal and will head into finals tomorrow against Baradene College of the Sacred Heart. It will finish off a busy week for Poppy, who also competed in the multisport event and placed seventh - a result she says she "just fluked".
Meanwhile, Mount Maunganui Intermediate's Taine Roy also secured a top spot in the Year 7 Boys race, admitting he surprised even himself when he crossed the finish line in third place.
"I wasn't expecting that," Roy, 12, said.
Competing in the AIMS Games for the first time, Roy said he had been mountain biking for about two years and was pleased the sport had been added to the tournament.
"I love going fast down the downhill and the adrenaline it gives you," he said.
Mount Maunganui Intermediate School principal Lisa Morresey was excited to enter eight students into the first mountain biking AIMS event.
"They have really been looking forward to it," she said. "I think it will help to inspire other kids as well."
Team manager Alisha Grimmer said the pupils had been training at Summer Hill for the past week preparing for the tournament. "The team spirit has been high," she said.
Event director Tristan Haycock said he was excited to see 200 athletes take part in the first event and was excited to see how the event could progress in the future.
"We're pretty impressed with our first year and we've got plans to make it bigger and better," Haycock said.
He said the goal for this event was to ensure everyone who took part enjoyed themselves and he looked forward to seeing what this year's young athletes achieved in years to come.
"So everyone gets to finish, everyone enjoys it and feels like 'I want to do more'," Haycock said.
Admittedly, Haycock says he wasn't any good at any sport, even mountain biking, when he was intermediate-aged. He's now competing all around the world in the sport, which proved any one of those competing in yesterday's races and any who take it up can succeed in the sport.
"At this age I was never any good at mountain biking.
"I was never any good at any sport but I was competitive and it was fun. You've just got to stick with it and things happen."
Year 7 Boys - 11km:
1st: Fletcher Adams (Berkley Normal Middle School), 39min 13.39sec.
2nd: Toby Bowler (Taupō Intermediate), 41min, 0.58sec.
3rd: Taine Roy (Mount Maunganui Intermediate), 42min, 45.83sec.
4th: Kieran Slaven (ACG Tauranga), 43min, 43.24sec.
5th: Liam Brown (Maungaraki School), 43min, 49.98sec.
Year 7 Girls - 5.5km:
1st: Caoilinn Gray (Cambridge Middle School), 20min, 09.08sec.
2nd: Eliana Hulsebosch (Aquinas College), 22min, 09.79sec.
3rd: Victoria Barrett (Hilltop School), 23min, 19.13sec.
4th: Poppy Croucher (Mokoia Intermediate), 23min, 42.94sec.
5th: Alex Tilby-Adams (Pāpāmoa College), 24min, 29.69sec.
Year 8 Boys - 11km:
1st: Payo O'Sullivan (St Martins School), 37min, 01.41sec.
2nd: Kieran McMillan (Morrinsville Intermediate), 37min, 16.60sec.
3rd: Riley Glover (Bethlehem College), 37min, 22.07sec.
4th: Alex Shapley (St Heliers School), 38min, 19.24sec.
5th: Jonny Barclay (Remuera Intermediate), 38min, 20.65sec.
Year 8 Girls - 11km:
1st: Poppy Lane (Mount Maunganui Intermediate), 42min, 45.98sec.
2nd: Eva Fuller (Whakatāne Intermediate), 45min, 39.11sec.
3rd: Lara Comeskey (Tawa Intermediate), 46min, 20.25sec.
4th: Meghan Baker (St Martins School), 47min, 03.08sec.
5th: Alexandra Clark (Remuera Intermediate), 47min, 44.86sec.