Paris Carroll didn't need two shoes to win gold in her Anchor AIMS Games cross country race – she was triumphant in just one shoe and one muddy, sodden and now very treasured sock.
The Christchurch schoolgirl took the Year 8 girls' title for Heaton Intermediate on the first day of the 14th annual intermediate-age sports competition in Tauranga.
A fellow competitor stood on her shoe in the jostling at the start of the race and Paris, 13, limped through the first few hundred metres with her shoe slipping off. As she turned to attack the first muddy hill on the sodden Waipuna Park course, she heard her father yelling out to kick the shoe off.
Paris says she knew her muddy sock would make her more susceptible to slipping on the hills, so she worked hard to pull away from her competitors on the flat. She finished in 11:28.57, ahead of Sarah Hay of Raroa Intermediate and Aniela Apperley from Havelock North Intermediate.
And the once-white, now thoroughly ruined sports sock? “I'm going to frame it.”
The Year 8 boys' race was a battle of the twins, with three familiar faces returning to the dais – albeit in a different order. The 2016 Year 7 cross country winner Daniel Nicholson of Katikati College, and his twin brother Sean Nicholson who last year came second, were each bumped down the podium one spot to make room for the 2017 Year 8 boys' cross country champion Mathijs Wetzels.
Last year Mathijs, who is also a twin, placed third behind the Nicholson twins. Mathijs won this year's race in 10:14.43. He hails from small full primary Te Kowhai School, north of Hamilton.
The 2017 Year 7 boys' cross country champion is Jack Hunter of Masterton Intermediate, who completed the course in 10:20.53, ahead of Aucklanders Dion Wallwork from King's School and Max Allnutt from Northcross Intermediate. Jack wasn't fazed by the muddy spring conditions, which included mid-morning temperatures of 7 degrees, with chilly breezes, intermittent rain and the threat of hailstorms. “I love it,” he said.
Raroa's Lucy Jurke took out the Year 7 girls' race, held in teeming rain, as she eased past Otumoetai's Lulu Johnson in the back half of the course to finish in 11.35, just outside the race record, with Bella Earl (Parua Bay School in Northland) third.
Otumoetai Intermediate also broke arch-rival Tauranga Intermediate's stranglehold on the 12km team relay title, regaining the trophy they last held in 2014, holding off a strong challenge from Katikati College.
Amongst the animated crowd were Olympic goodwill ambassador Nikki Hamblin and Paralympic swimming sensation Mary Fisher, who greeted competitors at the finish line of the inaugural AIMS Games Parasport cross country event.
The AIMS Games, now in its 14th year, is New Zealand's premier sporting event for intermediate-age athletes. The six-day event will feature more than 10,100 athletes, representing 302 schools and competing across 21 sports. Cross country boasts the largest field of any code, with 844 competitor.