Just like that, a whirlwind week of sporting action in Tauranga has come to its conclusion. The AIMS Games saw more than 11,500 athletes from around New Zealand and the Pacific take part in 23 sports at multiple venues throughout the city. From rugby and netball to rock climbing and mountain biking, the six-day event had something for everyone. Many will go home proudly wearing medals, others glowing with their own happy memories – all will be better for the experience. The week was full of stories of determination and resilience and Bay of Plenty schools were right in the mix.
Intermediate aged athletes are heading out of Tauranga with medals, trophies and most importantly experiences they will never forget as another AIMS Games comes to a close.
Auckland's Bucklands Beach Intermediate has been a powerhouse throughout the event - on Friday afternoon, with some results still to be added, they sat comfortably on top of the medal table with one cup, seven golds, 14 silvers and 16 bronzes.
Tauranga Intermediate are the next best and while they have fewer medals in total than Bucklands Beach, they have the most golds (11) as well as 13 silvers and seven bronzes.
Ōtūmoetai Intermediate School, which had about 360 students competing, brought home at least two cups and 22 medals across a number of sporting codes.
Ōtūmoetai principal Henk Popping said the trophies were claimed in the cross country and girls six-aside hockey yesterday.
"The whole Ōtūmoetai Intermediate School community is extremely proud of our representatives, the athletes, the singers and the bands."
Popping, who is the tournament's newest chairperson, said the highlight for him was the "positive buzz" in all of the sports offered and the camaraderie between schools and teams.
"Every student and school I have spoken to over the week commented on the experiences their students have had in meeting new people.
"They also spoke about the support from our Tauranga community and the memories they will take home from such a fantastic event."
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Another highlight was seeing the commitment, organisation and support of everyone involved, he said.
Plenty of Rotorua students made the trip over the hill to compete. John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said his school sent about 100 students to the AIMS Games.
"It was a very busy week. People think of it as a national competition but it's an international competition now - they rarely get to compete in those.
"They get to mix with kids from throughout the country as well. You've got schools from the Far North to Invercargill and Dunedin.
"The AIMS Games is a great asset [to Bay of Plenty]. They all go and have fun as well as develop their skills. Our students did very well, it was quite cold, there was a lot of rain and early starts but they've been great ambassadors for the school."
BMX rider Jaydah-Lily Lees may have been competing as a Year 8 at this year's AIMS Games but she still kept a close eye on the Year 7 girls competition.
Her first time at the tournament last year the Whakatāne-based Tauranga BMX Club member broke the Year 7 girls record of 40.7sec, stopping the digital timer at 38.70sec.
This year, she did it again and broke the Year 8 girls record in the time trial with her time of 38.935sec. Her goal on the morning of time trials was to have the fastest time out of all riders - across boys and girls divisions - and while she came close, she was pipped at the post on the last round by Year 8 boy Lucas Bhimy of Rangeview Intermediate with a time of 38.658sec.
Representing Whakatāne's St Joseph's Catholic School, Jaydah-Lily said she had been training hard in the lead-up and was pleased to have secured her latest record, which means she is now the current record holder of the Year 7 and Year 8 girls time trials.
Admittedly, she said she was keeping an eye on the Year 7 riders during their time trials because she was hoping to retain both titles – and she did.
Jaydah-Lily's fellow clubmate and training buddy Keira Waite got a personal best in her time trial to secure silver in the Year 8 time trials with a time of 41.426sec.
Next up for the pair will be North Island Titles to be hosted in Tauranga at Labour weekend.
Tauranga BMX Club president and organiser of the AIMS Games BMX events Tina Bourke said Jaydah-Lily was a standout at the event.
"She trains really hard though, so she deserves it. She puts hours into it and her dad as well. They're based in Whakatāne obviously and he travels over, goes the extra mile for her."
She said it was nice to see someone who put in the work achieving great results.
"You see her there, working hard and breaking the 40-second mark for the girls is pretty incredible."
AIMS Games medal tally leaders (As at 4.30pm, Friday, September 12)
Bucklands Beach Intermediate - 37 medals, 1 cup.
Tauranga Intermediate School - 31 medals, 2 cups.
Ōtūmoetai Intermediate School - 22 medals, 2 cups.
Northcross Intermediate - 18 medals.
Somerville Intermediate School - 14 medals, 2 cups.
Farm Cove Intermediate - 14 medals.