Waipukurau athletics whizz Briana Stephenson showed she was well on the road to a full recovery after knee reconstruction, with a return to form at the recent 2018 New Zealand Track and Field Championships in Hamilton.

Still healing 22 months after suffering the severe knee injury, the former New Zealand under-18 athletics representative and NZ Secondary Schools netball midcourter won a silver medal in the under-20 women's long jump in Hamilton with a season's best 5.75m.

Capable of clearing 6m before she ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a "cruel blow" during a netball game in May, 2016, the 18-year-old followed up with a 5.68m jump to claim bronze in the senior women's event.

No longer able to compete in the high jump because of her knee, the 2016 CHB junior female sportsperson of the year decided to contest the under-20 women's 200m, where she claimed another silver with a personal best of 25.04secs.


She also qualified second fastest for the under-20 women's 100m final but, as the only finalist to have competed in the long jump earlier, a weary Stephenson finished outside the medals in fourth.

Immediately after the nationals, she flew to Australia where she was due to compete at last week's Australian Junior Athletics Championships in Sydney, according to her dad, William.

"She is also a key member of the NZ under-20 4x100m relay squad which hopes to qualify during late March, for the world junior champs in Finland in July," Mr Stephenson said.

It had been a long road to recovery for his daughter, suffering the severe knee injury when a landing on the netball court went "horribly wrong".

Along with many other partial tears and stretched ligaments, she ruptured her ACL, which had to be replaced with a patella tendon graft.

"This procedure takes two full years to fully mature, so she has a few months to go yet."

After the surgery by "amazing" North Shore knee surgeon Dr Mat Brick, Mr Stephenson said there were signs his daughter was returning to top sprinting speed when she competed at the NZ Secondary Schools athletics champs in Hastings last December.

But Briana had been still struggling with her favourite event - the long jump.


"Then in Hamilton, her form came back," he said.

Mr Stephenson said his daughter, a former boarder at Napier Girls High School, where she still held 13 athletics records, was in her first year studying physiotherapy at AUT University in Auckland, where she was also training full-time under Russian athletics coach Elena Brown.