This was a present to savour for Phoebe Edwards, who got a national title for her birthday at the weekend.
The Wellington East athlete clinched the national under-18 heptathlon title in Auckland on Sunday, the day she turned 16.
Not that the milestone produced riotous celebrations, with Edwards sleeping for much of the car trip home, after competing in seven events over two days at the national combined events championships at Waitakere.
In particular, the sprinter found the final event, the 800m, a test.
"I was really tired after that," she said.
"I'd been sick, with a cough and a cold, in the week leading up to Auckland and I only trained for one day that week. Though I did feel fine over the weekend and I'm not sure if it [the cold] had much effect."
The heptathlon triumph completed a treble of national titles for Edwards in the space of 10 weeks, following a winning double at the national secondary schools championships in December, when she took the junior high jump and 80m hurdles titles.
It was Edwards' last appearance in the junior ranks for the secondary schools championships. "I was hoping to medal in both but to get gold in both was awesome."
There are few chances to contest a heptathlon and Edwards was competing for only the second time at the weekend, making her debut when winning the North Island under-16 title at the North Island combined events championships in November.
"There are really only two [competitions] a year but I want to keep doing it, it's really good fun. You don't get bored when you train for more events."
Edwards, who is coached by Mike Ritchie, was able to benchmark herself against the senior winner Portia Bing and under-20 winner Paige Harwood at the weekend, as all three grades competed together.
Edwards beat Harwood in the her two specialist events - the 100m hurdles and high jump - but 20-year-old Bing was in another league.
"She [Bing] is really amazing," Edwards said. "But it was good competing against them, as it pushed you along."
The heptathlon comprises the 100m hurdles, 200m, 800m, long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin. Edwards improved her scores in most events compared to the North Island championships, though the javelin and the shot put are her weakest events, in part because she has done little training for either.
The heptathlon title maintained an impressive start to 2014 for the year 12 pupil, who has already recorded personal bests for the 100m hurdles, 200m, high jump and long jump.
She is the top ranked under-18 woman in New Zealand for the hurdles and high jump and in the top dozen for the 100m and 200m.
She will now be concentrating on the hurdles and high jump in preparation for the Australian junior championships in Sydney next month.
Following her efforts at the secondary schools championships, Edwards was selected for the New Zealand invitational youth team that will go to Sydney.
"I've never competed overseas before. I don't really know what to expect but I'm going to aim high and hope for a placing in one of the events."
Edwards has made considerable inroads into her personal best for the 100m hurdles this summer. Her quickest time in 2013 was 14.92 but she has beaten that three times this year, with a best of 14.33 when finishing third at the Capital Classic meeting, behind Fiona Morrison and Bing, the two top-ranked female hurdlers in New Zealand.
"I knew I could go faster but that was a massive PB and I was really happy with that," Edwards said.
She has also improved her PB for the high jump to 1.72m and run 26.14 for the 200m this year.
Her goals for the year include breaking 14 seconds for the 100m hurdles. "That would be really hard but I might as well aim high and it would be awesome if I could get over 1.75 [in the high jump]."
Following the Australian junior championships, Edwards will compete in the under-18 division at the New Zealand track and field championships in Wellington in late March.
She will be kept busy at the nationals, competing in the 100m, 200m, hurdles, high jump and long jump. "If I just do one event, I don't feel I've done much."
Edwards, who won a national title in the vault as a junior gymnast, became serious about athletics when she was 13 or 14, after quitting gymnastics.
Older sister Beth, in year 13 at Wellington East, has made a mark in the diving pool.
Beth Edwards captained the New Zealand diving team that competed at the Australian School Games last year and was a dual gold medal winner.
- The Dominion Post
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