Kerikeri High School student Alexander Hull is one of three Kiwi junior runners to make history by qualifying for next year's IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Denmark.
It has been nearly 10 years since a New Zealander ran a qualifying time for the competition but Hull, along with Toby Gualter (Wellington) and Samuel Tanner (Tauranga), ran under the required time of 32.05 minutes at a 10 kilometre invitational race in Wellington on November 10.
"At 8km into the race we knew we were going to beat the time so we just went as fast as we could," Hull said.
Hull, 18, recorded a time of 31.34, finishing second to Tanner, but said he went into the race not thinking he would qualify.
"I was surprised because I didn't think I had done enough kilometres to run the 10k in a good time but I suppose on the day it was up to mental strength and pushing through the pain barrier.
"I thought it was out of my reach but once I started, the determination helped me through the race. I was so determined to get the qualifying time that I just kept pushing through."
By the 7km mark, the three qualifiers pulled ahead from the others and by the final kilometre, it was a sprint to the finish for Hull and Tanner.
The pair's rivalry spans almost five years when Hull was second in his first New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships in 2014. Tanner won the race.
Next year's event is on March 30 and will feature about 400 runners vying for international success.
While he still needed to be selected for the team to travel to Denmark, Hull said he looked forward to the race despite his nerves.
"It's quite stressful but I'm definitely excited. It puts a lot of pressure on but I guess you need that pressure to motivate you to train and prepare."
In March, Hull broke a 30-year-old Northland record when he won the 3000m senior boys' title recording a time of 8 minutes, 57 seconds at an event held at Trigg Sports Arena in Whangārei.
He has no idea how he will do in Denmark but he wanted represent his country and region well.
"I just need to start fast and get in front of the pack then to get in the top 50 in a 400 person race would be good but i don't really know yet. I imagine the competition is pretty good but placing first out of the NZ guys would be good. I haven't beaten Sam [Tanner] for a while so that would be a bonus."
Hull put his success down to his mental strength and self-discipline when it comes to training.
"It starts with being self-disciplined. On those days that you don't want to go out running, it's about forcing yourself to do that which grows that mental strength. If you don't have the mental strength you can train as hard as you want but you won't be able to do it on race day."
Hull does about 70km of training each week and with next year's race on different terrain than he achieved his qualifying time on, Hull said changing his training would help him adjust.
"The skills are pretty transferable. They both give a good base for each other.
"Track is a lot more speed work whereas cross-country you cover a lot more distance throughout the week and more repetition. Like running up one really big hill over and over again."
Hull said he was driven to train as hard as he could to keep up with the rest of his competition.
"It is pretty hard to motivate myself but I just remind myself that everyone else, all my competition, is out training so if I don't do it, I'll be putting myself at a disadvantage. I need to be keeping pace with them."
Hull's older sister Imogen shared his passion for running as she secured a scholarship worth more than $160,000 in 2016 to attend McNeese State University in Louisiana, US.
Hull said this has become his long-term goal.
"[Imogen] been a big influence on me. When she went over to the states, I set that as my goal as well because I didn't want to miss out on an opportunity like that."
Hull said he hoped to go to the University of Houston which was close to his sister and had a strong track team.
Despite his overseas ventures, Hull said he was proud to be the only Northlander to qualify and hoped he could set a good example to other keen runners in the region.
"It all started off with the Northland cross-country and that's how I got into running so I want to make Northland proud and maybe inspire some of the youth running in Northland cross country that they can achieve good things through running."