The school motto at King's College in Auckland reads: "Let Moral Courage Prevail."
Ben Morgan this year's First XV captain and his family certainty adhere to that sentiment.
Ben wasn't born in New Zealand, he was born in the far-flung Channel Islands.
"My dad Kim is a potter. While he was travelling overseas he met my Mum, Debbie," explains Morgan.
"Mum had a busy lifestyle working in hospitality, but Dad convinced her to come back here and the rest is history."
The Morgan's settled in Hawke's Bay and up until Year 12 Ben attended Lindisfarne College.
He made the First XV in 2013 and played well enough to earn a place in the Hawke's Bay Under-16 reps.
He was noticed at the Hurricanes rep tourney by King's coach Tasesa Lavea. Morgan recalls how he ended up at King's.
"Tasesa got in contact with my Dad and we both went for a tour of King's. I was blown away by the facilities and I found the people very welcoming. I wanted to take my rugby to the next level so relocating to King's was an easy choice."
The carrot of leadership was offered at King's, but leaving Lindisfarne wasn't easy.
"It was tough. I genuinely liked Lindisfarne, but moving to Auckland was the best choice for me. Some people criticised my lack of loyalty, but I was determined to do well as were my real friends."
Ironically Morgan found his early days at King's close to intolerable.
"I didn't go home in my first term at King's and that was a mistake. I didn't see my family and after about eight weeks I got really home sick," Morgan concedes.
The First XV wasn't entirely successful either. They finished 7th in 1A despite boasting New Zealand Schools and Hawke's Bay rep Jonah Lowe and Barbarians fullback Shelford Murray.
"It wasn't a great season, but we learned a lot about ourselves and have implemented those lesions in 2015," Morgan says.
Morgan brings leadership experience to King's. He was the captain of the Hawke's Bay under-16's and a few teams at Lindisfarne. What is the key to great leadership?
"The best quality I bring to captaincy is compassion. You have to get the best out of the boys and you can only do that by understanding their personalities and being supportive at all times."
"It's a demanding job that requires you to be strong and sensible on the field as well as off the field."
With two rounds remaining King's are tied for second, one more win and they will qualify for the semi-finals. King's plays an expansive game and only St. Kentigern College have scored more points than them this season. King's boast a forward back that can match it with the best.
Against Kelston Boys' High School on Land Rover First XV rugby, Morgan illustrated his class by scoring a 50-meter try.
"That was pretty cool, the night before Sam Whitelock had scored one for the Crusaders. As I was running I kept thinking, Whitelock, Whitelock, Whitelock."
Morgan was named man of the match, but laughs there was a shepherd prior to him going through.
Can Morgan replicate such form on Saturday when King's tackles St. Kent's? King's haven't beaten St. Kent's since 2011.
"There is this perception that St. Kent's is this unbeatable beast, but Sacred pushed them, Auckland Grammar pushed them. We have identified some weakness we hope to exploit."
Morgan identifies the scrum as a possible area of ascendency for King's.
One area where King's hasn't enjoyed ascendency this season is finishing games. Twice they have conceded tries in the 70th minute to lose. The most hurtful setback was against traditional rivals Auckland Grammar School. The Grammar halfback stole the ball from the final scrum. What happened?
"We actually pushed too hard and our No.8 had to go back and get the ball. He got isolated and Grammar produced a championship moment."
Morgan attended the Blues Under-18 camp in the school holidays.
"That was a valuable experience. I learned some things about hitting rucks and grafting that I didn't know, It was very helpful."
Morgan hopes to make the New Zealand Schools team that will tour Australia in October. His interests outside of rugby include art, surf and physics.
The 22-strong New Zealand Junior Rowing team flies to Brazil this Friday for the 2015 World Rowing Junior Championships which are being held on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Rio de Janiero, from 6 to 9 August.
New Zealand will be represented in Rio by a men’s single scull, women’s quadruple scull, women’s coxless four, men’s coxed four, men’s quadruple scull and travelling reserves will contest the women’s pair and men’s double scull.
Single skuller Ben Watkinson can’t wait to leave. “I’m feeling confident ahead of the trip, but at the same time I’m going up against the best rowers from different countries around the world so it’s going to be tough,” he said. ” Everybody in our team is really excited and we can’t wait to get on the plane.”
“It’s really going to be a different feeling racing at this venue, with everything set up ahead of the Olympics next year.”
Ben, a year 13 student at Dilworth School in Auckland, said he’s particularly excited to be representing New Zealand for the first time. He qualified for the New Zealand team after winning the U18 Boys Single Sculls at the Maadi Cup in March.
Preparation has been thorough. “We all live in the lodge at Lake Karapiro and for the past eight weeks we’ve been training together,” said Ben.
The junior team began their training block at Lake Karapiro at the Rowing New Zealand High Performance Centre on 7 June under the guidance of coaches John O’Connor, Bruce Jones and Rachel Arbuckle.
There hasn’t been much time off. “A normal week-day will be doing some rowing in the morning, so maybe two 5 km or a 4 km open race. In the afternoon we’ll go through a technical row and have a weights session. Every Saturday we have two sessions in the morning. So we’ll go out and do a longer distance and then in the second row we’ll do some sprints.”
For role models, Ben doesn’t have far to turn, with 2000 Olympic gold medallist Rob Waddell and 2012 Olympic champion and single scull world record holder Mahe Drysdale to look up to.
“I’ve talked to Mahe once or twice because he is part of the same club as me – West End in Auckland. He’s stayed at Nationals with us, along with his young family.
“I definitely look up to Mahe and Rob as role models and I see what they’ve achieved and I just hope to do the same thing. When I stop rowing if I know that I have gone out and pushed as hard as I can then I will be happy.”
Ben explained that he got into rowing through his school, which started a programme a few years ago. This was discontinued but he stayed involved through the West End club.
“My family also has a history in rowing and I wanted to continue that too.” His great uncle Murray was a multiple national single sculls champion who won silver at the 1962 Commonwealth Games and competed at the 1964 and 1972 Olympics.
What about school work at the moment? “We’re still doing school work. We’re temporarily enrolled at St Peter’s, Cambridge, doing work by correspondence and with teachers we can access.” He admits he won’t be doing much NCEA work overseas though!
The young New Zealand rowers will compete against hundreds of top junior athletes from around the world at the Championships. To compete as a junior rower the athletes must be under 19 years of age. Juniors can compete in the following boat classes at the world championships: Men – single scull, double scull, coxless pair, quadruple scull, coxed four, coxless four and eights; and the junior women in the single scull, double scull, coxless pair, quadruple scull, coxless four and eights.
2015 New Zealand Junior Team
Junior Women’s Quad Scull
Ella Toa (Sacred Heart Girls’ College, New Plymouth)
Ella Simanu (Diocesan School for Girls)
Claudia MacDonald (Fraser High School)
Michaela Townshend (Southland Girls High School)
John O’Connor (Coach)
Junior Women’s Coxless Four
Anahera Nin (Waikato Diocesan School for Girls)
Finau Mosa’ati-Fosita (Sacred Heart Girls’ College Hamilton)
Lucy Hutchinson (Avon RC, Southern RPC)
Ella Greenslade (Wairau RC, Central RPC)
John O’Connor (Coach)
Junior Men’s Coxed Four
Fergus McSwiney (Mt Albert Grammar School)
Jonathan Winter (Mt Albert Grammar School)
Sam Martel (St Andrew’s College)
George Howat (Rangiora High School)
Timothy Zouch - Coxswain (Massey University)
Bruce Jones (Coach)
Junior Men’s Quad Scull
Ben Kirsop (Cambridge High School)
Lenny Jenkins (Whakatane High School)
Matthew Mesman (Canterbury Rowing Club, Southern RPC)
Braeden Camp (St Peter’s School, Cambridge)
Bruce Jones (Coach)
Junior Men’s Single Scull
Ben Watkinson (Dilworth School)
Bruce Jones (Coach) assisted by Rachel Arbuckle (Coach)
Junior Women’s Travelling Reserves (Double/Pair)
Ruby Willis (Petone Rowing Club)
Olivia Mendonca (St Margaret’s College)
John O’Connor (Coach) assisted by Rachel Arbuckle (Coach)
Junior Men’s Travelling Reserves (Double/Pair)
Jack Lopas (Christchurch Boys High School)
Hayden Robertson (Onslow College)
Bruce Jones (Coach) assisted by Rachel Arbuckle (C
Year 9 Aotea College student Rianna O’Meara-Hunt is living her life in the fast lane.
Rianna has been racing karts since she was eight years old. Wellington’s Kaitoke track just north of Upper Hutt is her home town venue and where she’ll be found in her spare time away from attending school and competing throughout New Zealand.
She is currently rated one of the best female competitors in junior karting and is the only one competing in every major New Zealand series all over the country.
She is already challenging for podiums after only six months in the new Junior Rotax class - racing male counterparts as old as 17 in fields of 20 or so racers - often all boys - Rianna does more than hold her own.
Currently she is the highest achieving junior female karter in the country showing the biggest potential to achieve and making the biggest gains from training, time in the seat and commitment to improve from persistence and hard work.
During the recent school holidays, Rianna represented Aotea College at the 13th annual KartSport New Zealand National Schools Championships at the Silverstream Raceway near Mosgiel. Just over 60 students from over 40 schools competed for their schools and Rianna finished a credible third in her class, the Formula Junior Class.
College Sport Media asked Rianna to explain the competitive nature of her sport.
“My class sees me competing against 12-17 year olds – normally always only boys. I race a 125cc Rotax engine - reaching speeds in excess of 120kph while only being centimetres from the ground. It is an extremely competitive sport with success and failure often coming down to tenths or hundredths of a second.
Were you pleased with how you went in at the national championships in the holidays?
“Yes, I was pleased to finish third behind South Island racers Ayden Polaschek and Lewis Ball. Like every competitor I aim to win, but with it being my first time racing on the track and with snow and ice covering the track and the locals having track and condition experience, I found it tough. But my self-belief was high and I backed myself for a top five finish and achieved my goals.”
What was the format of the New Zealand Schools Championship races and how did you go in your races?
“The format of racing is a five-heat system - a random grid draw is presented at the beginning of the day for the first four heats - normally two starts towards the front of the field and two starts towards the rear - and points are award based on your finishing position. After the four heats racers line up for the final based on the amount of points secured in the first four heats.”
“I started the first two heats towards the back and on a slippery track with not many passing opportunities worked my way forward to finish in positions 7 and 8 respectively. In the third heat I started 5 and finished 1, while in the fourth I started 2 and finished 2.
“I started the final on the second row of the grid on the outside line in fourth place. My competitors were all boys and all aged between 12 and 17. The South Island champion [Ayden] was the driver to beat all weekend - he eventually cleaned up, but I came in third. Girl Power was going strong!”
How busy are you in your sport?
“Most weekends are taken up by karting - either racing at an event, practicing at an out of town track for an upcoming event, or competing at local tracks with local club competition.
“Strength training, dietary requirements and video analysis of past performances or upcoming tracks are all part of a regular week for me.
“We leave to compete at another karting series tomorrow - this time in Auckland so its fair to say karting keeps us all busy and travelling from one end of the country to the other.
“Already this year I have raced Tauranga, Whangarei, Tokoroa, Hamilton, Wellington, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Palmerston North, Wellington and Dunedin. This coming weekend I’m competing in another karting series in Auckland.”
What are you long term aspirations?
“To be the most recognized and highly regarded female driver in the New Zealand karting scene and to have the confidence when older to train and encourage other young female competitors.”
You’re the driver, but it’s fair to say it’s very much a team sport?
“Yes I have plenty of help and support from my parents, my grandparents and my school, Aotea College. Plus there’s several people who help me out with my on-track performance and the set-up of my kart – without them I’d be going nowhere. Finally, a massive thank you and shoutout to my sponsors, Typeface Limited, Wilford Motorsport and Axiom Hydraulics.”
Rianna O’Meara-Hunt achievements to date in 2014 and 2015
2014 - Junior Restricted class (9-13 years)
Current W.P.K.A Championship champion – 1st place
– Lower North Island Series
Current Blossom champion – 1st place
– Prestigious Hawke’s Bay event running for over 45 years
Current Wellington champion – 1st place
– Club champion based on year-long points system
North Island Sprint Championships – 3rd place
– National event
2014 “CRC Speedshow” Top Half Karting Series – 4th place
– Upper North Island Series
2015 - Junior Rotax class (12-17 years)
“CRC Speedshow” Top Half Karting Series leader – 1st place
– Upper North Island Series
– Winner at Tokoroa Round 1
– WINNER at Hamilton Round 3
2015 “National Schools Karting Championships – 3rd place
– National event
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