She has conquered the North Island and now Jena Gregory is turning her attention to the South Island in her quest to gauge her worth in the squash domain.

Gregory became the girls' under-15 winner at the North Island Junior Age Group Championship in Wellington on Monday last week, defending the crown she won in Auckland last year.

The 14-year-old Havelock North Squash Club member caught her flight to Dunedin yesterday to compete in her maiden three-day South Island Championship starting tomorrow.

"I'm just hoping to get a few more titles down there," says Gregory who was in a field of 182 juniors competing in myriad age groups, including a dozen of her club members, at the Te Raupareha Arena in Porirua.


"Quite a few North Islanders go down to the South Island and not many South Islanders come up here so it should be some new faces and new challenges," says the Havelock North High School year 10 pupil, who has entered in the U15 and U19 grades.

Competing in her fourth North Island event last week, she beat two opponents 3-0 before overwhelming Katie Templeton, of Tauranga, by the same score in the semifinal.

Gregory, who is part of the Eastern and New Zealand elite development squads, ground down Diana (Dora) Galloway, of Wellington, in the final with 3-1 victory.

The former Lucknow/Te Mata Primary School pupil, who is a B1 grader in the region, also competed in an Eastern v Wellington Junior Challenge held at the all-glass court at the arena.

She came in for the final match, beating A2 grader Charlotte Galloway to help Eastern clinch the challenge 7-5 games.

Other Bay place getters at the North Island Champs were Riharne Taiapa, who was runner-up in the girls' under-19 grade, and Winona-Jo Joyce, who was third in the same category. Kiera Thompson was the U13 girls' plate winner.

Gregory hadn't competed in the southern event before because of the expense in travelling.

"I've met quite a few people now so I can stay with people I know."

No doubt, north plus south titles will hopefully pave the way for her to add national crowns.

She just missed out on the girls' U15 national bragging rights but is teeing up again for it late this year.

"It'll take a lot of hard work and persistence, I guess, as I keep pushing myself."

Gregory grew up watching her mother, Andrea Hewitt, a Havelock North club member, and father Dereck Gregory, a Napier Lawn Tennis and Squash Club member, play the indoor sport.

"I used to have a hit with mum before and after she'd play other people," she says.

However, it helped that sister Caitlin Gregory, 17, now a tertiary student, was becoming racquet savvy although she has stopped playing as a C grade social competitor.

"She used to go to tournaments and I couldn't so I was very jealous because I was too young," she says with a laugh, after showing ascendancy over Caitlin three years ago.

Gregory had to give up her netball and jazz/musical theatre dancing last year for squash because of the academic demands at school.

Nevertheless, she valued the qualities of strength and poise that netball and dancing added to her constitution in acquiring a level of agility required in executing boasts and aces along the claustrophobic alleys of the squash courts.

Gregory started to learn how to appeal to referees for lets from J5 grade but it wasn't until July 2016 that she broke into the B grade ranks.

She harbours a desire to rise to A grade (A2 then A1) by this year but she is mindful that like grasping the knack of executing a drop shot, it can take time to master.

Gregory reveals there aren't too many top female players in the Bay, bar Taiapa and Joyce, so her coach, Joel Le Comte, and a training mate, Robert Fridd, become ideal opponents to hone her skills and lift the intensity incrementally to new heights.

Entering the professional realm of squash is a dream but she appreciates it's a distant one right now to take that leap of faith.

"It'll probably be until the end of the juniors, which is the under-19s," she says, spending 10 hours a week in training where quality precedes time.

A more immediate goal is to make the cut for the New Zealand world junior team next year. She missed out on it last year because she was too young. The youngest in that intake was 16.

It isn't unusual for her to take her books and laptop during car rides and plane flights to tourneys and camps to keep up with the demands of school work. University is on her agenda but she isn't sure what her career path is.

Gregory thanks her gear sponsors Technifibre and Evans Osteopath in Hastings for their support.