Kerikeri's young mountain bikers have made their intentions clear with an impressive performance at the national secondary school mountain biking championships in Dunedin over the weekend.
The team of seven riders, Johnny Bryant, Jack Cates, Toby Huston, Luca Legler, Tiree Robinson, Iggy Rose-Yon and Lily Wilson, picked up a second, two fourths and a top 10 finish over the three day competition. All seven riders are students at Kerikeri High School.
The national event featured three events, Enduro, Downhill and Cross Country. The Enduro event required riders to complete and navigate between five different tracks in a period of time. Downhill saw riders complete one 1.5km downhill track for the quickest time. Riders competing in the more conventional Cross Country event raced against other riders at the same time on a 4km track for four laps.
Wilson was the main contributor of the Kerikeri group, picking up the silver medal in the under-17 girls Enduro and a fourth in the under-17 girls Downhill. Robinson picked up the other fourth place finish in the under-15 Cross Country.
The results of the entire group showed great promise for next year's competition which would be hosted in Northland at the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park from October 3-4.
"I think they did really well, not just in terms of their results but they competed really well and they were a fantastic team to take away," Kerikeri High School teacher and fellow mountain biker Odette Yates said.
"They looked out for each other, they supported each other really well and it was a great team effort from them considering they were all competing in slightly different things."
Yates, who travelled to Dunedin with the group, said none of the seven riders had been to the national competition before, but had proved their ability with recent success at regional events.
"When you're doing really well regionally, it's nice to put yourself in the big picture and see how you fit in amongst what happens in the rest of the country, especially when you're way up here [in Northland].
"We just wanted to take them down there and give them a completely different experience to what they'd had so far."
All riders, including Yates, were members of the Kerikeri Mountain Bike Club which worked closely with Kerikeri High School to give the riders at least one training a week, but Yates said some riders would train up to five days a week.
The second and fourth-place finishes for 16-year-old Wilson were just the latest in a line of recent successes for the young rider. In this year alone, Wilson had won Enduro, Cross Country and Downhill events in Northland and Auckland or her age-group and in open divisions.
Yates said Wilson's commitment to the sport was the reason for her success.
"[Wilson] trains a lot and she's out there riding around with the boys and the adults most weeks, so I guess riding with people who are older and more experienced than her, she gets lots of encouragement and extra tips along the way."
With next year's tournament in Northland, it would be a great chance for Wilson and others to reach their potential on familiar terrain. Yates said it would be exciting to have a major tournament in the north.
"It's going to be really cool to showcase what we've got up here and it's nice to bring people to our place."
The five-night trip to Dunedin was made possible through funds given by the Oxford Charitable Sports Trust, the Kerikeri Lions Club and the Kerikeri Mountain Bike Club.