Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sports Awards Dinner 2013

It's that time of year yet again, Baradene sports awards, a night to sit back, relax, and celebrate the successes of the past sporting year! I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the dinner along with many of the high achieving sportswomen at the school. We arrived sporting our whitest shirts and smartest uniforms to the Ellerslie Event Centre, and the night quickly kicked off. We had the first set of awards followed by a huge dinner, our guest speaker (a former all black) spoke then we got into the major awards! The excitement grew in anticipation of who the winners would be, so far I had won an outstanding achievement award for track cycling, a gold award for winning national events in cycling in 2013, and a silver award for representing Auckland in football. They started announcing the 'team of the year' awards, i exchanged nervous glances with the members of my Junior A cycling team as this was the award we were really aiming for. The Year 7/8 A cycling team won the Year 7/8 team of the year, the climbed on stage with all the cycling girls cheering loudly for them. Time for the Juniors, "and the winner of the Junior Team of the Year is............... JUNIOR A CYCLING TEAM! We all leapt up and I don't think we stopped smiling for the rest of the night! Now for the final award, for the 'Most Outstanding Performance of the Year', it is usually won by a senior and it is said to be the most prestigious award of the night. "but this year this award has been won by a junior, a sportswoman who has put 6 national titles to her name this year, Jenna Merrick", I actually can't begin to describe what I felt in the moment but the first thing I probably thought was "what?!". I was stunned, and absolutely in awe of how it could ever be me! With shaking legs I made my way onstage, my voice trembled all throughout my speech but I was extremely happy. I made my way back to my seat to be welcomed by all the cycling girls, and that was the end of the night! I walked out of the with 5 awards and a rather special trophy, one which I never dreamed of getting. In the car on the way home I read the names of the previous winners, two stuck out to me, Henrietta Mitchell, a track cyclist who went to the commonwealth games, and Emily Collins, a road cyclist who currently rides with a pro-cycling team in Europe. I couldn't believe that my name was among two of my heroes!

What a night! Successful, and a great way to finish a hard year of sport! I'd like to congratulate all the award winners who worked so hard to get there, especially all the cycling girls who cleaned up fair chunk of the awards ending what has been, a phenomenal season.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

National School Champs 2013

26 spin classes, 33 6am starts, and over 150 rides in the past 26 weeks were all in preparation for this; the final event of the 2013 school road cycling season, national champs. The championships consist of 3 races, a Team Time Trial, Individual Road Race, and a Criterium, held over 3 days, each race a different venue; Levin, Manawatu, and Manfield. In 2012 Baradene won the overall best girls school at the competition, we were back to try and retain that title.

Friday was the practice day; I woke that morning with a pounding headache and a bad cold, and I wasn't the only one. It seems that 3 of 4 members of my Junior A TTT team also shared the sickness. We coughed and spluttered during our ride on the course, and spent the rest of the day wrapped up in bed.

Saturday the Team Time Trial day; the butterflies in my stomach grew as the time to race came closer. We watched each Baradene team set off, and came back from the 16km race, now it was our turn. Warm up flew past in a heartbeat, I felt nervous, excited, and a little sad as it was our last race together as the Junior A four, but I slid on my aero helmet and immediately forgot about anything but the race which loomed ahead. We rolled out to the start line as one unit, leaving a trail of the minty smell of vick's vaporub.

It was time, I mounted my bike shaking, but the reassuring words of my team members reminded me I had a job to do! 3, 2, 1, and we were off! We swiftly rode into our 'snake-like' formation and started to battle the hard headwind. The race went perfectly, on the day I don't think we could have gone any harder or faster, we won 2nd place and were extremely pleased and proud!

Sunday the Individual Road Race day; 'it's now or never' I told myself as the hill became steeper. I started to up the pace, a bit at a time until there was only two of us, the wind swirled and it started to rain, we needed each other if we wanted to stay out the front. The road race was 16km, starting with a long hill, I raced in the U14 girls grade along with 50 others. A gap was made after the first hill between two of us and the bunch, working together we maintained a small lead until around 5km through the race where I became the 'lone rider'out the front. For the next 3km I just put my head down and worked hard, battling the worsening rain and swirling wind, I was too scared to look back and see where the others were so I just kept riding. I came to the halfway point, and turned into a tail wind, I ventured a look behind me and the bunch was no-where to be seen. I kept my pace up for the remaining 8km and rolled over the finish line with a big smile and over a minute in front of the next rider. I put absolutely everything into that race and I'm so happy that I got a really good result!

Monday the Criterium; the morning was chilly, swirling wind and rain battered on the car as we headed for the Manfield Park Racecourse. The final day contained the last event of the competition, a criterium, the winner is the rider who wins the most points from sprints during the race. The Manfield Park Racecourse is a car racing circuit which the event organizers hire out for the day, each lap is around 3km, filled with technical corners and long straights, a very interesting course. During the fourth and second final lap in the race I had secured the position of first equal, with a total of 8 points, to win, I must cross the line anywhere in-front of the other competitor on 8 points. The pace of the bunch continued to rise as everyone apprehended the final sprint, as we approached the final bend I start to go around the bunch, halfway through the corner I already have 20m on the bunch with my main competitors even further back. But the road was just too slippery, I was going too fast for the amount I was leaning, and the rubber wheels slipped from between my weight. I bought down around 8 others with me but only a couple with more serious injuries. As soon as my body would let me I lept back up from the ground, I had never not completed a race before and I just felt really inspired to keep going. I had around 200m to ride to the finish line, once I straightened my bike up and started riding. It felt like it took ages and my body hurt but I was proud I finished. To my complete surprise I had earned enough points to win second place! After prizegiving we headed straight off the local A & E. After hours getting cleaned up and bandaged we headed back to watch Baradene getting crowned the best cycling girls school in the country for the second year in a row and recieve the AJ Drake cup.

Despite the sicknesses, and crashes it was a rather successful weekend of racing, definitely one to remember, with tonnes of fun, friends, riding and some wins too!