Jack Hunter winning the Year 8 boys’ cross country race at the AIMS Games in Tauranga. PHOTO/JAMIE TROUGHTON — DSCRIBE MEDIA

CROSS COUNTRY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Jack Hunter overcame his own nerves and the weight of expectation by winning the Year 8 boys’ cross country race at the AIMS Games in Tauranga on Sunday.

The 13-year-old Masterton Intermediate School pupil won the Year 7 race at the same venue last year, and said he struggled to contain his nerves in the lead-up.

“The week before the race I was so stressed out.

“There was a lot of stress but when it was done it was great — I was so nervous because you never know if there’s going to be that new kid who wasn’t there the year before.”

The AIMS Games [Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools] is a yearly sporting event held in Tauranga that brings together top competitors from across New Zealand, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

Hunter completed the 3km race in 10 minutes 13 seconds, giving him a comfortable nine-second buffer over the runner-up.

He managed to knock seven seconds off his winning time from last year, but said that was not something he had consciously tried to do.

“I wasn’t really thinking about it — I just wanted to win.

“I just kept looking back to make sure he wasn’t going to sprint past me, but then I realised he was really tired.”

Hunter had a clear plan going into the race of how he wanted to approach the event, nut with 180 other runners in the field there was always a chance it would not go as he had hoped.

Luckily, his plan worked to perfection and resulted in him securing top spot on the podium.

“I was going to hold back and just stick with the leader until 1km to go, and I did that.

“It felt good that it worked out like that.”

Hunter does not run as much as he used to when it comes to training, but plays plenty of other sports to keep his fitness levels up.

“My old coach said that was one of the best ways to train — I play basketball, football and do quite a bit of mountain biking.

“My favourite sport is football, but the season is over.”

Hunter has also made his mark at the inter-regional cross country competition, which is held for pupils in Years 5-8.

In the last three years he has won every time, and he will be looking to add the Year 8 title to his list of achievements when he heads to Rabbit Island in Tasman later this month.

“Hopefully I will win this year to win all four — that would be so good because this year I’m the captain as well.

“To win four years in a row would be really cool.”

Long-term, Hunter is hoping his efforts may lead to a chance to represent his country on the world stage.

“It might lead to other things with my fitness, but I want to represent New Zealand in the Olympics.”