Hawke's Bay high schoolers Samuel Porter-Samuels and Johanna Nieuwenhuis offer an ideal snapshot of people's propensity to adapt in the face of overwhelming evidence that a desired interest doesn't fit their genetic composition.

That ability to mutate has elevated Porter-Samuels and Nieuwenhuis to the higher echelons of their chosen discipline in athletics when they converge at the annual New Zealand Secondary Schools' Athletics Championship in Hastings from today.

At last count, 1314 athletes had entered from 210 schools, including entries from the Cook Islands, Niue and Fiji, for the meet at the HB Regional Sports Park which ends on Sunday.

Porter-Samuels, a Lindisfarne College year 11 pupil, switched to javelin just two years ago - and Nieuwenhuis last year - but he was runner-up at the high school nationals in Auckland last year with a throw of 45.2m while she finished fourth at 31m.


"I was over the old shot put, discus routine so javelin was kind of a new thing I'd never tried," says Porter-Samuels who started Year 9 with a throw of 39m and has made incremental gains to around the 47m mark this year.

The Hastings teenager's first flirtation with field events came at Raureka School when he was handed a softball to throw but at Heretaunga Intermediate a former teacher, Kim Whittington, exposed the then 11-year-old to the metal variety and some basic techniques before coach Murray Smith took over in year 9 at high school.

"I was kind of into both running and throwing but then I kind of got too big to run because most of my mates were sprinters."

Porter-Samuels took his limitations in stride but told his mates he was embarking on a mission to rule the field while they attempted to tame the tracks.

No doubt when there's a bit of banter at meetings. The 16-year-old is never shy to extend the need-for-speed mob an invitation to his domain to prove their worthiness.

A second XV rugby winger, who occasionally got a sniff at first XV, Porter-Samuels is eyeing the 50m mark this weekend and hopes to make the top eight.

His parents, Apihaka, a retail industry worker, and Hemi, a truck driver, offer him all the encouragement to excel, regardless of what sport he shows interest in.

The technical complexity of javelin throwing is what beckons him, time and again, to the 4m runway to launch the 2.6m-long, 800g metal spear from the arc into a 28-degree angle sector.


"It doesn't matter how big you are — like in shotput, the bigger you are the better the throw — in javelin you can be any size but with the right technique you can throw 50 to 60 metres."

He grappled with his share of demons when starting out with Smith, who told him to grab the javelin and chuck it as one would a cricket ball.

"I worked through it and got pretty much hooked into it," says the Hastings Athletics Club member who receives coaching from Sharee Jones as well, putting in six hours a week during training and working his upper body at the gym every so often.

Porter-Samuels is ranked No 9 among under-18s in the country. His best of 47.65m this year will be tested against not only Jayden Godz and Dean Andrews, who finished third and fourth, respectively, last year but NZ U18 champion Cam Robinson who threw 65.42m this year.

For Nieuwenhuis javelin began in Year 9 at Central Hawke's Bay College, with other field and track events, after she excelled throwing a Vortex (torpedo-shaped toy which whistles through the air when chucked) at Pukehou School.

"At primary school we weren't allowed to throw javelins because it was dangerous so it [Vortex] became a junior version of javelin."

That trusty arm also earned the 15-year-old a fielding placement on the bigger boundaries in cricket in summer.

"Ever since I was little I was able to throw a things quite far," she says, revealing she and sister Anneke, 20, a Victoria University nursing student, used to chuck sticks at the family farm amid sibling rivalries.

Nieuwenhuis didn't receive any formal training in javelin until a few weeks before she competed at the nationals last year — a few tips from Jones.

The year 10 pupil started at 25m and leapt to the 31m mark at the nationals. Tanya Murray, Jessica Senior and Savannah Schee, who claimed the top three places last year, are competing here.

Parents Ann and Geoff Nieuwenhuis, born in the Netherlands, support her and her father used take part in athletics at school.

Johanna Nieuwenhuis doesn't belong to a club because she is involved in other representative codes, such as HB U16 cricket and age-group soccer, where she puts her arms to good effect with throw-ins from the sidelines.

However, she is pondering joining one next year to make the most of coaching.

Growing up in a farm, Nieuwenhuis doesn't anticipate the recent heat to have any impact on her performance.