Hawke's Bay cross country runner Reid Livingston hopes to secure an athletics college scholarship in the United States when he leaves Napier Boys' High School next year.
"I want to do what the likes of Daniel Wallis and Eric Speakman have done from the Bay in the past and I'm hoping to do some middle distance running in the states," 17-year-old Year 12 student Livingston said.
A Napier Harriers Club member like Speakman and Wallis were before heading to the states, Livingston, knows a top finish in the under-18 boys 6km race at the Australia Cross Country Championships next year will enhance his chances of earning a scholarship. He will compete at the Australian event for the first time next month as the only Hawke's Bay member of the six-strong Kiwi team in his age group in Wollongong.
"Because I get another crack next year the goal this time is to not be the last New Zealander in my age group," Livingston said.
A former Havelock North Intermediate School and Haumoana School student, Livingston has only been doing cross country for 18 months which adds to the significance of his selection.
"I've always been naturally fit," Livingston said.
He was selected after finishing 12th in the senior boys 6km race with a time of 20m 44s at the Timaru-hosted national secondary school championships on June 15 and 16.
"I was pretty surprised by that time as I was pretty buggered when we arrived in Timaru as we had a seven-hour flight delay in Napier on the Friday before we left. I could have got a top eight finish if we didn't have that but after finishing 48th the previous year I was still happy," Livingston explained.
Coached by long-serving NBHS coach and deputy principal Bruce Smith, Livingston trains six days a week and clocks up 80km most weeks. Cross country is his sole sporting focus and his disciplined nutritional programmes reflect his high level of commitment.
"Our athletics programme at school is the best it has been for a while and Reid is one of the better students we have had in recent times. We believe he has a good chance of making the New Zealand team of six for the world cross country championships in Slovakia in April next year," Smith said.
"Reid will be part of our three-man team for the national secondary schools cross country teams relay next year. The three-man relay is the most prestigious and toughest to win. We've finished second in the past but have never won it ... next year we should have a good chance," Smith said.
A big fan of Tauranga middle distance runner Sam Tanner, Livingston pointed out the NBHS team in Timaru was thrilled to receive a motivational video from New Zealand marathon runner Zane Robertson. Wallis organised this while training with Robertson in Ethiopia.
Livingston has a back-up plan should he fail to secure a United States scholarship. It involves going to university to study physiotherapy.
Considering the boxes he has ticked during his short time as a cross country runner that career path is likely to be on hold for a while.
Other notable performances in the individual section of the nationals in Timaru from Hawke's Bay athletes saw the Napier Girls High School pair of Briana Lee and Aniela Apperley finish 19th and 12th in their respective senior girls' and junior girls' races and Taradale High School's Amelia Smith finish 17th in her Year 9 race.
The highlight for the Hawke's Bay contingent was recorded by the East Coast North Island junior girls team which finished second to Wellington. This team consisted of the NGHS pair of Apperley and Britney Murphy and the Taradale High School trio of Nikita Wain, Georgia Dearing and Amelia Smith.
The fact Amelia Smith had to run up a grade and Wain, who finished sixth in the junior girls race at last year's nationals, was unable to race on the Saturday added to the significance of the junior girls' success. Wain was full of praise for the work Hawke's Bay physio Tony Snell, who was in Timaru with the Lindisfarne College contingent, did to get her fit to race on the Sunday.