Date: Thursday, 18 December 2014
Posted by: Cycling Southland

An outstanding year for Academy Southland athletes was celebrated last night and a new and talented intake welcomed to the programme for 2015, which includes Year One cyclists Brad Knipe, Tom Sexton and Emma Cumming, along with Pathway to Pathway rider Victoria Baldwin.

Academy Southland is a talent development programme which offers extensive support across a range of areas to young, talented athletes and puts them on a pathway to the high performance environment.

The annual programme graduation was held at ILT Stadium Southland, presenting the chance to reflect on another hugely positive year and it was then that Southland Elite cyclist Nick Kergozou was anmed joint winner - along with Laura Overton - of the Academy Southland outstanding overall performance of the year award.

Programme manager Jason McKenzie said Southland's young athletes continued to impress at all levels, highlighting the Junior World Track Cycling Championships and recent New Zealand Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships as examples of that.

Three Academy Southland athletes represented New Zealand at the Junior World Track Champs – Laura Heywood, Michael Culling and Nick Kergozou – with Kergozou becoming carded by Bike NZ on the back of an excellent performance.

Kergozou won bronze in the team pursuit, but it was his performance in the kilo as part of the omnium event that saw him become noticed.

McKenzie also highlighted the form of Laura Overton and Jordan Rackham at the New Zealand Secondary School Track and Field Championships, with both winning back to back senior titles; Overton in the senior women's javelin and Rackham in the senior men's 1500m.

Overton also impressed on the netball court, being selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools tournament team.

McKenzie said Rackham's performance in the 1500m was outstanding, however so too was his attitude, revealed in the steeplechase event where he had been running fourth when the third placed athlete tripped and Rackham slowed to let him claim the bronze.

"People say sport reveals character and Jordan really showed this through that one performance," McKenzie said.

"Academy Southland is about growing well-rounded people – not just in terms of athletic performance – so we're very proud of him for that."

Rackham and Overton were awarded for their efforts, named as joint winners of the Year Two Academy Southland Outstanding Overall Performance of the Year Award; whilst Kergozou won the Year One award.

This year Academy Southland also partnered with Rugby Southland; including three talent-identified female athletes from its high potential programme in all seminars and workshops. All three were named in the South Island Secondary Schoolgirls tournament team, with Georgia Mason also being named the Most Valuable Player at the national Condor Sevens tournament.

Whilst last night was a chance to celebrate outstanding success, it was also a chance to look forward to the year ahead, with 14 athletes welcomed to the programme from a range of sports, including the Year 1 intake, one athlete in the Pathway to Podium programme (which offers similar services to athletes identified by national sports organisations) and two athletes from women's rugby.

Next year the programme will welcome its first athletes from the sports of tennis and boxing as well as an alpine skier and, for the very first time, an official will be included in the programme.  

Academy Southland Year 1 athletes for 2015: Elizabeth Reid (Alpine Ski Racing), Nathaniel Arnold (Boxing), Emma Cumming (Cycling), Bradly Knipe (Cycling), Tom Sexton (Cycling), Laura Moffat (Netball), Alannah Robinson (Netball Umpire), Dylan O'Connor (Rowing), Lucy McIntyre (Softball), Emilia Price (Tennis), Atipa Mabonga (Athletics)

Pathway to Podium 2015: Victoria Baldwin (Para Cycling)

Women's Rugby high potential programme athletes to be involved with Academy Southland in 2015: Alena Saili (Rugby 7s, Touch, Netball), Trisha Hopcroft (Touch)

Article courtesy The Southland Times

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