Another outstanding year for athletes in the Academy Southland programme was celebrated at a function last night, as Southland's up and coming sporting talent continues to impress at a national and international level.
The two-year Academy Southland programme is designed to fast-track young athletes on their way to being carded, and to prepare them for the high performance environment; offering extensive support in mental skills, nutrition and strength and conditioning.
Programme manager Jason McKenzie said he continued to be impressed by the standard of talent amongst Southland's young athletes.
"All of the athletes in our programme, and those in the new intake for 2014, have achieved some outstanding results in their chosen sports," he said.
"These kids are consistently performing to a very, very high standard and achieving on the national and international stage but, more than that, they are growing as people as well. That all-round nature of the Academy Southland programme is what contributes to its success in supporting our young talent."
Cyclist Jeremy Presbury was awarded the year 2 Academy Southland Outstanding Overall Performance of the Year Award after a fantastic year that has included winning two gold medals and one silver medal at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival and a silver medal and a fourth place at the UCI Juniors Track World Championships. He has been training with the Bike NZ elite squad and is pushing for World Cup selection.
McKenzie said Presbury's year and performances had been outstanding.
"Jeremy has embraced everything that the programme offers in terms of nutrition and strength and conditioning, but he's also grown as a person too. He has good support from his school and he's learned to get that balance right," he said.
"Academy Southland is about ensuring these athletes are ready for that transition to the elite programme. Jeremy is very close to that happening and he is ready for it."
Jordan Rackham was recognised with the year 1 award, after a year that started with success at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, where he won two silver medals, and culminated in winning the senior boys 1500m title at the national secondary schools athletics championships.
"To win that senior title as a year 12, one of the premier events in New Zealand athletics, is pretty impressive," McKenzie said.
"For Jordan it's not just about the success, it's the way he has gone about it. He has been extremely focused, he knows what his goals are and he is prepared to put the work in."
McKenzie said there were several strengths with the Academy Southland programme and its team of providers, which included McKenzie, dietician Aimee Burns and strength and conditioning specialist Nardine Oakes, continued to grow.
Next year Burns would be contracted to the programme for one full day a week, thanks to additional funding from the ILT Foundation.
Eleven athletes were also welcomed into the programme for next year at last night's function, and McKenzie said it was very pleasing to see such strong talent coming through from such a wide variety of sports, from downhill mountainbiking to table tennis, football and netball.
The Academy Southland Talent Xcelerator programme is a joint venture between Excellence in Sport South Island, the Community Trust of Southland, the ILT Foundation and Sport Southland.
ACADEMY SOUTHLAND YEAR 1 ATHLETES 2014:
Connor Harvey (downhill mountainbiking), Michael Zhang (table tennis), Nick Kergozou De La Boess (cycling), Makayla Smith (cycling), Tim Yaxley (rowing), Michaela Townsend (rowing), Bayley Smith (netball), Emily Flett (squash), Alex McIntosh (football), Jack Beaumont (athletics), Hannah Miller (athletics).
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