Jaimee Leader's rise as one of the country's future triathlon stars has continued during a stellar season this summer.
The Palmerston North teenager is midway through her first season competing in the Contact Tri Series and is getting some good results at only 15 years old.
Leader competed in her first Tri Series event at Rotorua last month and kicked off the season in perfect style as she won the sprint distance race and finished four minutes ahead of world under-19 champion Steffie Holcroft.
She competed again at the next round at Whangamata at the start of January where she was third in the sprint distance (750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run).
Then two weeks ago, she competed at the next round at Christchurch where she finished seventh.
"It's an exciting sport travelling around," Leader said. "The thrill and the challenge of racing. I wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't doing it."
At the man-made Pegasus course near Christchurch, she got to race alongside some of New Zealand's top triathletes such as Andrea Hewitt and Kate McIlroy, who the youngster was keeping time with after the first leg of the race.
"I didn't get to see them much. I came out with them in the swim," Leader said. "I was really pleased with that but, then they left me."
She said it was a good experience to be racing alongside the stars who are "on a different level" to her now, but "hopefully that's where I'm headed".
The Palmerston North Girls' High School student has been a protege of former Olympian Samantha Warriner, who has done a great job mentoring Leader, making sure she is on the right track with her career, especially because she is so young.
A lot of the girls Leader competes against are older but she enjoys the challenge it presents.
"I reckon it is a high level of competition. I raced them last year in the schools nationals and came third when they were a year older than me.
"It's great to be able to compare yourself to older people and see how you're going."
Her next big goal is the national sprint distance championships at Kinloch next month and she is eyeing the schools nationals at Christchurch at the end of March.
She also wants to get in the Triathlon New Zealand youth development team after Warriner thought she was too young last year.
Leader has plenty of time to develop. She is only starting year 11 at Girls' High this year, where she won the junior sportsperson of the year award last year.
Through the help of Warriner, she has picked up a sponsorship deal with Asics which should make her life easier as an athlete.
A strict trainer, Leader doesn't like rest days and even on her days off she wants to be training, which she does three times a day.
- Manawatu Standard
Did you celebrate at least one local sports victory at Labour weekend?Related story: Manawatu 'right up there'