An ex-Whanganui Collegiate student has taken Oklahoma by storm by helping to lead her university to gold at a national rowing competition.
Laura Francis, who now studies at Central Oklahoma University was the youngest freshman to compete at the NCAA Divison 2 Rowing Championships in Indiana this month.
Going into the competition undefeated all season and on top of the leaderboard, the team of eight girls won the first heat that gave them immediate access to the final.
Finishing with a time of 6m33s, the team were three seconds off breaking the record.
The competition, consists of six teams, two from an eastern, western and southern state.
As the first international recruitment the university has had for rowing, a win has helped her to achieve her dreams even more.
"A win helps me want to keep going because it's winning that final last race that gets me excited to go back and do it all again," Francis said.
Francis's mother Ruby said she had worked so hard, sacrificed so much and it had definitely paid off.
"Her time at Collegiate was influential in her decision to travel to America and we are so proud of her for firstly going and secondly for her win," she said.
Her rowing journey began in year nine at an Auckland high school after her dad Mark encouraged her to go along to training.
"I tried so hard to prove I wouldn't enjoy it but I ended up falling in love with it," Laura Francis said.
The decision to move to Whanganui Collegiate in 2016 was prompted when her good friend had the same idea and both girls were excited by the possibility to be coached under David Lindstrom.
"He played a significant role in the decision as we knew how good he was and that we would be part of a programme that would win."
Francis commenced the rest of her schooling from year 12 onwards at Collegiate as a full-time boarder and due to her age was able to stay a further term into year 14 to continue rowing.
In year 13 she was made the captain of the rowing eight right through till her final term.
Her move to Oklahoma in August 2018 was pushed by the head rowing coach on the university who helped her to enrol and to be granted a four-year scholarship higher than any other university had offered her.
"I miss home sometimes but going to Collegiate helped me to be away from home so now it feels more normal to be away from parents than not," Laura Francis said.
The 19-year-old is now in her second year studying a criminal justice major while training 20 hours a week for rowing.
As the season has now wrapped up Francis will have some downtime as she has surgery on her shoulder and recovers in time for next year.