Listening to Amelia Smith explain the nuances of middle-distance running is akin to digesting tips from a maitre d' at a restaurant before diving into a three-course, degustation meal.

"The 800 is like a tactical race and that's what I like about it," says a stoked Smith after returning with a silver medal in the grade 13 girls' 1500m race and a bronze in the same age-group 800m event in her gender in her maiden outing at the North Island Colgate Games at Inglewood, Taranaki, last week.

"You need to just sit back in the pack and do what you want," explains the Taradale teenager. "You can either sit back or you can be out leading in the front and then stay in front if you have to."

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Smith had clocked 2m 26.85s in 800m to finish behind Amelia Abernethy (2:25.34), of the Wellington Harrier Athletic Club, as Kate Borton (2:23.23), of the North Harbour Bay Club, had snuck through to clinch gold.

Borton and Abenethy had broken away from the bunch, prompting Smith to dig deep at the final 200m to try to make up for lost ground but her legs became a little heavy and her lungs spent.

She realises her tactics will need some tweaking if she goes on to eclipse her elite rivals.

"You've obviously got to stick with the leaders to have a good placing so I would have probably started sprinting when Kate had started."

The bottom line for Smith is in recognising that 800m is a thinking distance for her.

"It was like a big competition so I didn't even know if I could get second or third but anyone who wants it really bad can do it."

So how bad did the Hastings Athletics member want it?

"Oh, baaad," says Smith who turned 14 two days before she competed last Friday in the three-day meeting that had enticed 1155 junior competitors, including 36 from her club, 19 from Napier Athletic Club, 14 from Wairoa and two from Central Hawke's Bay.


Her father, James, a machine operator in Napier, and 11-year-old brother Liam, had bought her a miniature mud cake and sang Happy Birthday before they partook in a low-key celebration of just sightseeing Inglewood to stay focused on the races.

Smith had finished fourth in her 400m heats and failed to make the cut for the finals.

However, she saw that as an ideal entree to the main course of 800m and 1500m.

Amelia Smith shows the lopey strides that will, hopefully, let her realise her Summer Olympics dreams some day. Photo / supplied
Amelia Smith shows the lopey strides that will, hopefully, let her realise her Summer Olympics dreams some day. Photo / supplied

The year 10-bound Taradale High School student has been training hard with her father but isn't sure what it'll take to clinch gold in her disciplines some day.

She had clocked 5m 10.29s in the 1500m race, finishing behind Renee Carey, of Tauranga, who broke the five-minute mark (4:57.30). Renee Donovan (5:18.08), of host club Egmont Athletics based at Jubilee Park, was third.

"She's an amazing runner and she's very good at cross country as well," she says of Carey who ran bare feet. "I was about a minute behind her in cross country [last winter] but now I'm only 30 seconds behind her on tracks."

Smith prefers take a back seat in the 1500m race before jostling for positions with two laps to go although she intends to keep up and stay with Carey who had started sprinting after the 100m mark to test the field's stamina.

She isn't partial to a discipline from the middle-distance races and is keeping her options open to see where she can find the best traction as she grows older.

Her prowess in running came to the fore when her mother's friend had suggested she enrol the then 9-year-old Smith at an athletics club in Central Otago.

"I was playing a game of Rippa rugby and I had been scoring five tries a game when I heard my mum's friend saying I should go to an [athletics] club because I was really fast," says Smith who now plays touch rugby and hockey as a winger for her high school.

Resthome caregiver Raechal Smith took her friend's advice on board for her Timaru-born daughter who had done some home schooling before arriving here last year.

The friend's foresight was endorsed as Smith clinched the 100m, 200m and 800m in her first formal meeting.

Smith harbours a desire to compete at the highest echelons of athletics when she's older — the Summer Olympics.

She also has filial footsteps to follow that dream with her loping strides.

Her paternal great-grandmother, Diane Townsend, of Gore, represented the country in hockey in New Zealand, and her paternal great-grandfather, the late Graeme Townsend, known as "Uncle Golly", was sporty and got into the New Zealand rugby trials but had missed the All Blacks cull. He had played 75 matches for the Southland Stags.

James says his daughter trained at their lifestyle block at Springvale, between Clyde and Alexandra, on tracks meandering through the forests.

"When she was 5 she had touched a rugby ball for the first time and scored a try and so since that time she loved running and loved people chasing her," he says.

James says former Otago marathoner Bill Godsall, who also still co-ordinates duathlons, triathlons and crosscountry, had mentored Smith.

"He's helps Amelia and we're still in touch with him."

Smith had only run on grass and natural terrain so she only got a taste of track running when she had arrived in the Bay.

She is indebted to Karamau High School teacher Tom Blake, who mentors her in touch, and Taradale High counterpart Mere Manning for their encouragement.

Hannah Roil (left), Rosie Symes, Jonty Roil, Hana Symes and Kepa Symes are some of the 36 members of Hastings Athletics who had competed at the North Island Colgate Games. Photo / supplied
Hannah Roil (left), Rosie Symes, Jonty Roil, Hana Symes and Kepa Symes are some of the 36 members of Hastings Athletics who had competed at the North Island Colgate Games. Photo / supplied


Austin McDougall: Hastings Athletics, gold, grade 11, boys' high jump (1.5m); bronze, grade 11, boys' discus (23.39m); bronze, grade 11, boys' shot put (8.14m).

Lucas Nairn: Napier Athletics, bronze, grade 11, boys' 1200m walk race (8m 36.8s).

Amponsaa Tabi-Amponsah: Hastings Athletics, silver, grade 12, girls' 100m (13.16s); silver, grade 12, girls' 200m (27.33s); bronze, grade 12, girls' shot put (9.06m).

Olivia Augustine: Hastings Athletics, silver, grade 12, girls' shot put (9.21m).

Hastings Athletics A team: Gold, grade 12, girls' 4 x 100m relay (Georgia Rope, Mikayla Stanton, Olivia Augustine, Amponsaa Tabi-Amponsah) 55.10s.

Amelia Smith: Hastings Athletics, bronze, grade 13, girls' 800m (2m 26.85s); silver, grade 13, girls' 1500m (5m 10.29s).

Rakatoa Morris-Wallace: Wairoa AC, bronze, grade 13, boys' 100m (12.52s).

Jonty Roil: Hastings Athletics, gold, grade 13, boys' discus (37.11m).

Zoe Rutherford: Napier Athletics, bronze, grade 13, girls' shot put (10.32m).

Callum O'Keeffe: Hastings Athletics, silver, grade 14, boys' 400m (52.95s); silver, grade 14, boys' 800m (2.03s); silver, grade 14, boys' 1500m (4.18s).