AS part of the Beacon preview to the AIMS Games, we visited four Eastern Bay schools that will compete at next week’s event.
Sport reporter Adyn Ogle talked with the teachers about the games and also took a look back on some of the memorable moments from previous games.
IT is the Olympics for intermediate school students and next week’s AIMS Games will be the biggest yet.
For the 14th time the mega multi-code event will take over Tauranga and Eastern Bay schools are in the thick of the action.
The 10,139 competitors represent 302 schools from New Zealand, Indonesia, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Australia. Seventy-two of those schools will compete at their first AIMS Games.
“We decided to consolidate this year and not add any more sports, but we’ve seen significant growth in nearly all our code numbers,” tournament director Vicki Semple said.
“That tells us just how successful the 2016 tournament was – kids have gone away and told their friends and younger siblings just how much they loved it.
“It also suggests we’ve got the balance between competition and participation right – while we celebrate our champions, not all 10,000 athletes can win a medal, so the experiences are obviously transcending mere winning or losing.”
The event began in 2004 with 750 competitors, from 17 schools competing in four sports but it has grown into one of the biggest sporting events in New Zealand.
It reportedly pumped $3 million into the Western Bay economy last year.
And former AIMS athletes continue to make their mark on the world stage, with a host of All Blacks, hockey stars, netballers, rowers and sailors having cut their teeth in Tauranga over the 14 years the event has been running.
Netball remains the largest code at the tournament, with a staggering 1464 players competing for 122 teams this year.
That’s an extra 16 teams from last year, which was already New Zealand’s largest netball tournaments at any level.
“Gymnastics has gone from 308 to 399 and I’ve been blown away by canoe slalom, which has pretty much doubled numbers from its debut last year, with 60 competitors entered from 17 different schools.
“We were lucky enough to have (Olympic silver medalist) Luuka Jones help out with the tournament last year and it just shows what an amazing impact momentum can have on a smaller sport,” Semple said.
Eastern Bay success has been consistent in recent years, with Whakatane Intermediate School the most prominent of the Eastern Bay schools.
The Whakatane team won the boys’ hockey title last year, improving on a runner-up placing in 2015, while swimmer Tarquin Magner won eight gold medals.
It was the fifth consecutive year Whakatane had claimed at least one medal.
The school has claimed medals in golf, multisport, gymnastics, tennis, cross-country and squash.
Alex Howe, now in her final year on tennis scholarship in the United States, won the girls’ tennis title in 2007.
Eastern Bay teams’ history at the games has also been highlighted by some of the smaller schools in the region.
Taneatua School defied the odds by winning the netball title in probably the most competitive sport at the event.
That team included a young Stacey Waaka, who just two weeks ago lifted the Women’s Rugby World Cup with the Black Ferns.
Galatea School had an amazing run in 2011 and 2012 where they won four gold, a silver and three bronze medals in gymnastics.
In 2010, Putauaki School played in atrocious weather on the final day of the teams golf competition to claim the title.
Murupara Area School
HAILING from the southern reaches of the Eastern Bay, Murupara Area School will take to the hardcourt next week.
A girls and boys basketball team will compete at the event and it will provide an opportunity that goes beyond sport.
“Attending the AIMS Games is a perfect opportunity for our students to stretch their thinking and skills in playing against top intermediate teams,” Murupara teacher in charge of junior basketball Julie Tumarae said.
“To represent Murupara Area School outside our immediate environment requires students, and staff, to display our school values of integrity, respect and aroha.”
Tumarae said the coaches were great role models for the intermediate teams.
“The players have been training every week since April and are coached by three of our senior students.”
Boys’ team captains Katiana Hitaua and Nahum Heke said they were looking forward to facing new challenges and representing the school with high standards.
Girls’ team captains Cherub Makairi and Jubilee Habiab said it Is the first time for all of the players.
“We’re feeling nervous as well as excited and our skills have developed.”
WINNING AIMS Games medals is nothing new for Ashbrook School.
The small Opotiki School, which last year had just 35 year 7 and 8 students on the roll, will be represented in five sports at next week’s event including basketball, cross-country, netball, table tennis and indoor bowls. Ashbrook School has won bronze medals in indoor bowls and swimming.
The indoor bowls medal came in 2013 when Max Jones and Jackson Mokomoko placed third in the pairs competition while Will Gandy won swimming bronze in 2008.
Other Opotiki schools competing at the AIMS Games are Opotiki Primary School, St Joseph’s School, Te kura o te Torere and Woodlands School.
Tarawera High School
LUNCHTIME trainings have been a pillar of AIMS Games build-up for Tarawera High School students.
The school will compete in five events next week including being the only Eastern Bay school taking part in the cheerleading, aerobics and hip-hop competitions.
Principal Helen Tuhoro said the games were a great opportunity to compete and perform out of the area.
“They represent themselves, their school, their whanau and Kawerau as a community.
“They show mana and use these values to perform and compete to the best of their ability.
“They learn team-building, relationships, friendships, fair play and pride in the school and themselves.”
Tuhoro said there was some expectation among the students.
“Many are rather nervous about the week ahead but also really excited to be going and participating in such a huge event.”
Alex Crosby is looking after the bowls team and said over the past five weeks, the team has trained on Mondays and Tuesday afternoons the Kawerau Bowling Club as well as at lunchtimes.
ONE athlete will carry the flag for Otakiri School next week.
Morgan Purcell will compete in Wednesday’s multisport race which includes a 2.4-kilometre run, 3.8km mountainbike and 1km kayak.
Otakiri teacher Anthea Shattock said the AIMS Games was a good event.
“It enables motivated children to compete in an event they are passionate and competitive in. It gives the children a goal to strive for. We are proud that Morgan wants to challenge himself and represent the school in the multisport event.”
Morgan is no stranger to off-road competition and is looking to carry that experience into next week’s race.
“Morgan has competed with his dad in a two six hour adventure races and other two hour events. Every week over the last two terms he has trained twice a week.
Morgan is looking forward to competing against other talented athletes. He loves to keep active and keep fit and said he likes training and competing and feels no pressure or stress in doing this. He particularly enjoys being able to train with his dad.”
Eastern Bay schools participating
- Ashbrook School: Basketball, cross-country, indoor bowls, netball, table tennis
- Awakeri School: Badminton, cross-country, swimming
- Murupara Area School: Basketball
- Omarumutu School: Cross-country
- Opotiki Primary School: Golf, indoor bowls, netball
- Otakiri School: Multisport
- St Joseph’s School (Opotiki): Cross-country, futsal, indoor bowls
- St Joseph’s School (Whakatane): Cross-country, sevens, swimming
- Taneatua School: Sevens
- Tarawera High School: Cross-country, indoor bowls, netball, sevens, performance group
- Te Kura o te Torere: Canoe slalom, cross-country
- Te Wharekura o Ruatoki: Netball, sevens
- Waiotahe Valley School: Cross-country
- Whakatane Intermediate School: Badminton, basketball, cross-country, football, gymnastics, hockey, indoor bowls, multisport, netball, sevens, swimming
- Woodlands School: Futsal, indoor bowls