"Staring at the white starting block in the water, body running with adrenaline, I felt blank with the deepest focus, just waiting for the starting sound," swimmer and newly crowned national age group champion Stevie Shipman said.
It was a focus which proved successful at the New Zealand Short Course Swimming Championships last weekend.
The Kāpiti College swimming captain was in record-breaking form as she recorded personal bests in all her disciplines and came away with gold in her age group - 17-year-olds and fourth in the Open A final for 50m backstroke.
Just two weeks prior Shipman sliced 0.16 seconds off her personal best, swimming 29.37 to win the Wellington 17-year-olds age group record, previously held by Samantha Lee who has gone on to be a world record holder.
She bettered this time at the NZ Short Course Swimming Championships by swimming 29.06 to win the gold.
"Finishing the race, I knew in my gut I had posted something that was all that I had worked and hoped for … gold.
"I placed my goggles on my forehead and looked up at the timing board to see 'Stevie Shipman – 1' and instantaneously brought myself back to my 'why' and the love I have for this sport."
Training eight times a week in the pool along with gym sessions, land trainings and recovery sessions, Shipman still finds time to make it to school, hold a part-time job and is also deputy head girl of Kāpiti College this year.
Looking at the timing board after her race she said, "After all of the hours, the goal-setting, nutrition and sleep management, the mental commitment and all of the perseverance that comes with the sport - it was humbling to experience tears of joy for something I had worked so hard for to have again.
"It gives perspective to your reasons for continuing when the sport can make you feel so alone at times."
While she missed out on the bronze medal in the 100m backstroke, coming fourth by 0.10 seconds in her age group, Shipman's time won her first in the Open Age B Final and made Swimming New Zealand's 2019-2020 performance standards to make it into the National Age Programme.
This gives her access to resources, coaching and training camps as well as ongoing monitoring and progress evaluation through a "Performance Passport" and performance behaviours.
She also came fourth in the 50m freestyle with a personal best time of 27.27 seconds.
Fellow Kāpiti College student Tori Grout also competed well at the meet.
Tori is a long-time national medallist in the breaststroke events with her 100m breaststroke not disappointing.
Her time of 1.14.19 seconds awarded her bronze as the third-fastest 16-year-old in the country for 100m breaststroke, and she also won silver in the 50m breaststroke.
She also placed eighth in the Open Age A Final, showing consistency with a time of 1.14.87 and sixth in the 50m A Final.
"I was a little happy with my times at the meet as I wasn't expecting huge PBs due to the massive break I had in lockdown," she said.
While Grout found motivation hard in lockdown, it was during this time on land that she realised swimming is something she wants to pursue to the top.
"In lockdown I realised that swimming was something I really want to pursue as a career and go to the Olympics in the future.
"For now though, my main goal is to travel over to the States and get a swimming scholarship when Covid-19 settles down."
Both swimmers compete for the Raptors who had great results at the meet despite being there without Raptors swimmer of the year Hannah Huria, Ōtaki powerhouse Tawhiti Temomo, the orange express Eli Litten and the explosive Jack Plummer for various reasons.
"I was pretty proud of the swimmers who have had a crazy year of uncertainty," Raptors coach Jon Winter said.
"Robin Shen was a top performer swimming personal best times in every event and we also had Kokoro Frost set a national open record for the 100 fly.
"Numerous club records were broken."