Tess Allen the placegetter has become Tess Allen the winner.
The Kapiti College pupil took her kayaking to the next level when dominating her age group at the New Zealand sprint championships at Rotorua this month.
Allen, representing the Mana club, won all three K1 titles - 200 metres, 500m and 5 kilometres - in the under-16 division and also picked up three silvers and a bronze in the K2 and K4 class.
It was the first time Allen had won a title in three appearances at the nationals. She earned seven medals but no golds in the under-14 division two years ago and two bronze medals last year but had usually played second fiddle to Rochelle Austin (North Shore) and Courtney Hoskin (Poverty Bay) in the individual events.
"I did a lot better than I expected and I was pretty stoked to get three golds," Allen, 15, said. "I went in not expecting that much and was pleasantly surprised."
Allen introduced an extra session to her training schedule for the championships and it showed. "I think I've really improved and felt that all the training paid off.
"Mark [coach Mark Watson] has worked really hard to make me improve. He has mainly focused on technique. He wants us to have a good technique before he pushes us over the edge [in training].
"But he also gives us time to fit in other sports as well. He doesn't want us not to enjoy the training at our age."
Watson said Allen and her clubmates had had to work hard to get the results in a competitive division.
"Lisa Carrington's success has had an impact on the number of young females taking up the sport and there were massive numbers in the under-16.
"But it's not a sport you just get in a day. It takes two to three years to get the balance required to race in a K1," Watson said. "You have to start off in more stable craft and it requires perseverance.
"Tess' results were quite exciting for her and her technique is getting much better. But there is a lot of training to be done when she wants to get really serious."
Allen, who is in year 11, also competes in surf lifesaving, basketball and rugby though she acknowledges that kayaking will eventually take precedence over the others.
"I'm getting to the stage where I want to focus on kayaking. I want to see where I can go with it."
Allen followed her older brother Jake into kayaking. "I always wanted to do what my brother was doing."
Kayaking was initially seen as assisting their efforts in surf lifesaving but in Tess' case it has become her main sport.
However, she is still involved in surf lifesaving and will take part in the surf lifesaving nationals at Ohope, beginning on March 6.
"The training for surf lifesaving and the other sports also helps my fitness for kayaking.
Allen also hopes to make the Kapiti College senior basketball team this winter, after leading the junior A team last year.
The sprint championships are the premier event on the domestic kayaking calendar, though Allen will also contest the marathon championships at Karapiro in early April. The under-16 competition will involve an 11km race in both the K1 and K2 classes.
Allen and Danielle Watson (Tawa College) are a long-established pairing in K2 and finished second in the K2 500m and third in the K2 200m at the sprint champs.
Watson and Allen then joined Gemma Woolcock (Sacred Heart) and Farren McGregor-Smyth (Hawke's Bay) to take silver in the K4 200m and 500m.
Dylan Booth (Hutt International) teamed with former Newlands College pupil Kurtis Imrie to take gold in the under-18 K2 200m and bronze in the K2 500m.
Wellington medallists in the under-14 division included Brooklyn Saunders (Wellington Girls), Sarah Warren (Kapiti), and Amber Woolcock (Sacred Heart).
- The Dominion Post
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