United States exchange student Trenor Wilkins reckons high schools back home should take a leaf out of New Zealand's book when it comes to sport.
In the US, students were encouraged to stick to their preferred sport and concentrated solely on it, Wilkins said. The Tampa, Florida native – who has been on exchange at Southland Boys' High School since January – admitted New Zealand had been a breath of fresh air with the way it allowed students to try their hand at a multitude of sports.
"In the States, you specialise and become really good at it. You practise every single day. Here, they don't practise every day. Everyone is really naturally good at a lot of sports. It's so cool that everyone does a lot of sport."
Wilkins' chosen sport is cross- country running and the 17-year-old has made his mark in it since arriving in New Zealand. He won the over-16 cross-country title at Southland Boys', then backed that up with a second-place finish at the recent Southland cross-country championships in Te Anau.
Wilkins led after 2km of the 6km distance, but was overtaken by precocious Gore High School talent Aaron Barclay, who won the race by 13sec from the American in a time of 21min 4sec.
While in Southland, Wilkins has tried his hand at a variety of sports. He took up mountainbiking in New Zealand and has competed in the Motatapu, Moonshine and WindFarm Classic events.
The youngster has also dabbled in water polo, underwater hockey, represented the Southland Boys' High first XI football team, and even lined up on the wing for the school's under-18 blue rugby side.
Coming from the gridiron-mad United States, Wilkins confessed it had been an interesting experience playing rugby.
"I didn't even know the rules," he laughed.
"I played a game and almost got a try against James Hargest.
"It was an easy open try and I just missed it."
Wilkins heads back home next month where he will begin his first year at college at the University of Florida.
He hoped to break into the university's cross-country team and said that would involve beating people who were already on the team in a race to gain their spot.
"They have a walk-on race.
"It's pretty hard to walk on (to the team). If I work hard all summer, I can do it."
The 60kg whippet admitted he would love to do the London Marathon and also had a few other running goals he wanted to tick off his list.
"I want to do a marathon on every continent. I've done one in Thailand already," Wilkins said.
- The Southland Times