In the garden of life, Caleb Carlisle, one can safely say, is a late bloomer when it comes to swimming.

But Caleb isn't wasting time diving head first into the pool of opportunities to make up for the lost time.

The Taradale Intermediate pupil has returned from the Anchor Aims Games in the Bay of Plenty with three medals and a swag of personal-best times last week.

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"My goal is to make the Nags [national age-group championship] times for next year in April," says the 13-year-old, who only took up competitive swimming 18 months ago under the tutelage of Gary Knight at Greendale Swimming Club in Napier.

The 15th AIMS Games, which hosted close to 11,000 intermediate school athletes in 22 codes, was Caleb's first in boys' races.

He claimed a gold in the 200m back stroke, silver in 100m backstroke and a bronze in 50m breaststroke.

The Taradale High School-bound teenager clocked 35.93s in the 50m breaststroke, shaving off 1.79s for a PB, before whittling down a whopping 6.4s from the 200m backstroke event in a PB of 2m 26s. His other PBs were 100m backstroke 1:09.68 (1.7s shaved off) and 1:12.98 (0.59s) in the 100m individual medley.

More than 70 12-year-old boys competed at the Aims Games. Thirty-eight girls and 30 boys competed in the 13-year-old age group.

School mate Olivia Wellington claimed a silver medal in the 50m girls' backstroke event, shaving her PB with 0.17s and collected a bronze medal in 100m backstroke, bettering her PB by 0.91s.

The 13-year-old Napier Aquahawks club member also helped her school claim gold medal in girls' hockey.

Another club mate and Taradale Intermediate swimmer, Nathan Stone, 13, won a bronze medal in the boys' 200m back stroke event, shaving off 7.9s in his PB.

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Ryan Hurley, of Tamatea Intermediate School, got on the podium for silver in the 50m boys' breaststroke, improving his PB by 1.35s, a bronze medal in 200m breaststroke, a PB of 2.41s and improving his time by 2.33s in the 100m breaststroke for a bronze medal.

Olivia and Nathan join Caleb in qualifying for not only the Nags but also the New Zealand short course championship in Auckland next month.

"I feel great that I've made short course from when I began swimming one and a half years ago to come all this way to make those times," says Caleb.

Initially there was talk of the trio having to replicate those times in a 50m pool to progress to the meeting for those who are 13 years and over but that is no longer a requirement.

Caleb was enjoying other codes at Taradale Primary School when a Greendale club parent approached him to have a go in the pool.

"I was playing soccer," he says, "but my main sport was basketball."

He had taken to the water like duck but also felt a need for speed for someone who simply enjoyed splashing about in a pool with family and friends before that.

"I just needed technique," he says, indebted to Knight for helping him hone his skills and helping him set some long-term goals.

Caleb also became a member of the Paul Henare and Paora Winitana Hawke's Bay Basketball Academy this year.

"It helps me get stronger and fitter."

He relishes not just the regimented training but also how the academy is helping him change his attitude to life, impressing the values of integrity, respect and punctuality.

"I didn't pay much attention to stuff [before that] so I wasn't that focused," says the youngster, who rates back stroke his best event, breast and freestyle follow with butterfly his least favourite.

Caleb now intends to split the time spent in swimming and basketball evenly to make the most of best.

Juggling sport with school is paramount for a boy who is thankful to mum Gemma for transporting him as well as club members, family and friends for their unwavering support.

Nathan, who also attended his maiden games, is excited about attending the two national meetings.

"I'd like to get into the finals to win a medal," he says, thanking Aquahawks coach Phil Melhuish.

"I'm enjoying going up to the higher level squads and having a new coach who is hard on us but in a good way," says the teen who has been competing for four years.

Unfortunately Ryan will miss out on the short-course and Nags meetings because of his age but the 12-year-old is upbeat about competing at the HBPB Summer Championship in Gisborne in November.

The former Porritt School pupil has put aside that disappointment to bide his time for a better template next year.

Ryan finds longer distances enable him to clock faster times.

He was watching an older Aquahawks member, Bruin Maunder, make breaststroke look effortless so he thought why not make that his first choice.

His mum, Fiona, got him into a pool from a tender age.

"I've been swimming all my life," says Ryan. "It's fun."