They make a two-hour drive every day just to get to the Anchor AIMS Games, travelling through the dawn from the far-flung reaches of the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
By the time the 10-strong team of indoor bowlers from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Waioweka near Opotiki arrive in Tauranga every morning, they are already tired and stiff - but the sight of the ASB Arena venue for the code soon inspires them.
“We’re up every morning at 5am and on the road by 6am just to get here in time,” team manager Rapua Timoti explains.
“We usually grab breakfast at a cafe on the way, then do some stretches when we get here - but the team is just loving it and it’s such an amazing experience for them.”
At night, they turn around and make the same journey again, snatching a few hours of precious sleep when they finally get home.
While many of the other 326 schools at the tournament are staying in Tauranga, waking late and strolling to their venues, the Waioweka crew are doing it slightly tougher, but it hasn’t diminished their performance.
Singles bowler Tahi Tait-Ropitini proved the star turn in his division, making the round of 64 in the 350-strong field, while several of their pairs combinations picked up some handy wins.
The team has been inspired and coached by members of the Opotiki bowls fraternity, who’ve travelled to support their young prodigies and those of several other schools in the Opotiki region.
Tait-Ropitini says he’s loved the whole tournament.
“It’s been great playing bowls for the whole week and I’ve managed to make heaps of new mates."
Ashbrook School's Nikita Whauwhau during her match with fellow Opotiki district player Tahi Tate-Ropitini during singles competition at the Anchor AIMS Games in Tauranga.