With three games for the Black Sticks hockey team on her CV, Napier Girls' High School striker Kaitlin Cotter was always a hot favourite for the Hawke's Bay schools' Sportsperson of the Year award tonight.
But she refused to accept the tag during the countdown to the Sport Hawke's Bay-organised Hawke's Bay Secondary School Sports Awards function, which attracted more than 300 people to Napier's Municipal Theatre.
"I didn't expect any of the awards and to finish with four was a huge surprise," the 17-year-old Year 13 student said afterwards.
Along with the supreme award Cotter also took home the female sportsperson award, the female hockey player award and the Jarrod Cunningham Youth Sports Trust Scholarship award which will come in handy when she heads to Auckland to study sports health and physical education next year.
Cotter has yet to decide which club she will play for in Auckland.
"Some of my friends up there are trying to get me to come and play for their clubs but I'm still undecided," Cotter said.
Although she has already cracked the Black Sticks squad Cotter agreed aiming for next year's Tokyo Olympics squad was unrealistic.
"Making the 2024 Olympics squad is a more realistic goal. I still have to keep improving my basic skills and my fitness levels have to be higher," Cotter explained.
She is the perfect example of an athlete who can succeed at the highest level despite not specialising in a code until her teen years.
"It wasn't until my second year at high school that I decided hockey would be my main sport. Until then I played netball and hockey and also did swimming and surf lifesaving," Cotter recalled.
She first played hockey as a 5-year-old at Reignier Catholic School. By the time she reached Taradale Intermediate School it was reasonably obvious to those in the know Cotter could be a New Zealand representative in any code she wanted.
In addition to her three games for the Black Sticks women's hockey team during the judging period for the awards, which ended on September 30, Cotter was also selected in the New Zealand under-21 team and Black Sticks development squad.
For the third consecutive year Cotter was a member of the Central team which won the national under-18 tournament. She was the top goal scorer at this year's tournament with 11 from five games.
Cotter also represented Central women in the National Hockey League and was a key member of her school's first XI, which won the Hawke's Bay Secondary Schools premier grade and finished ninth at their national premier tournament.
While Cotter was the busiest individual on the night it was a memorable evening for the national title-winning Hastings Boys' High School first XV rugby side. In addition to taking home the team award the side's coaches, Tafai Ioasa and Karl Lowe, captured the coach award and their first five-eighth Latrell Ah Kiong won the male rugby player of the year award.
Cotter beat the HBHS first XV, female all-rounder award winner Ashleigh Poi of Napier Girls' High School, male all-rounder award winner Reece Akuhata of Lindisfarne College, para athlete award winner Guy Harrison of Napier Boys' High School and male sportsperson award winner, Hastings Christian School cricketer William Clark, in the tussle for the senior award.
Sport Hawke's Bay's Secondary Schools Sports director, Sophie Hickford, said 192 nominations were received for the awards.
"Once again they were of a high quality which made judging hard. There were heaps of national champions which contributed to a strong awards night and it was great to have a cyclist of the year award for the first time."
NZ Couriers Student Contribution: Kelsey Stubbs (NGHS).
Hawke's Bay Today Service: Deb McKenzie, Roni Nuku, Rose Cudby (all NGHS), Josie Hunter, Tom Blake, Vicky Peffer, Tash Crawford (all Karamu High School), Leanne Wilson (HGHS), Stephen Small (HBHS), Peter McGlashan (NBHS), Ralph Harper (Lindisfarne College).
Jarrod Cunningham Youth Sports Trust Official: Beverley Hussey (HNHS, Triathlon).
Jarrod Cunningham Youth Sports Trust Scholarship: Kaitlin Cotter (NGHS, Hockey).
Furnware Coach: Tafai Ioasa and Karl Lowe (HBHS, Rugby).
Kennedy Park Team: HBHS 1st XV Rugby.
Youthtown Female All Rounder: Ashleigh Poi (NGHS).
Youthtown Male All Rounder: Reece Akuhata (Lindisfarne College).
ZM Para Athlete: Guy Harrison (NBHS).
Stirling Sport Female Sportsperson: Kaitlin Cotter (NGHS, Hockey).
EIT Male Sportsperson: William Clark (Hastings Christian School, Cricket).
Sport Hawke's Bay Supreme Award: Kaitlin Cotter (NGHS, Hockey).
Code Award Winners: Netball, Parris Petera (NGHS); Tennis, Alexandra Cave (Woodford House) and Daniel Rowe (NBHS); Orienteering, Tessa Burns (Woodford House) and Will Tidswell (HNHS); Equestrian, Kate Browning (Karamu High School); Canoeist, Jaimee Wilson (Taradale High School) and Jack Wilkinson (HBHS); Athletics, Brianna Lee (NGHS) and Reid Livingston (NBHS); Cricket, Margot Scoular (NGHS) and William Clark (Hastings Christian School); Hockey, Kaitlin Cotter (NGHS, Hockey) and Sean Findlay (Taradale High School); Basketball, Melika Samia (NGHS) and Clifton Bush III (NBHS); Swimming, Arabella Smith (NGHS) and Jake Stephens (Lindisfarne College); Football, Charlotte Lancaster (NGHS) and Luis Toomey (NBHS); Cycling, Charlie Tattersfield (NBHS); Rugby, Liana Mikaele-Tu'u (HGHS) and Latrell Ah Kiong (Rugby).