Earlier this season, Zoe Hobbs broke the New Zealand all-comers Women’s 100m record, the former New Plymouth Girls’ High School student clocking 11.15 seconds to break a record that had stood since 1990.
Hobbs is part of a group of super-competitive women’s sprinters pushing each other on to faster times and personal best performances.
There is now a new generation coming through, headed by Auckland’s Talia Van Rooyen, who at just 15 is turning out some quick times to match those of Hobbs and others before her.
Most recently, last Thursday on day one of the College Sport Auckland Championships at Mt Smart Stadium, Talia clocked a personal best 200m time of 24.61 - running into a 2.4 metres per second headwind - to break Nadia Evans’ 2020 record of 24.70.
This follows on from an outstanding meet at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships in Hastings the previous weekend, in which Talia won the Women’s U18 100m in 11.50.
This would have been a national record, if not for a 3.1 m/s tailwind, which ruled the time invalid. If legal this would have broken Briar Toop’s 32-year-old U17 and U18 record of 11.55 and Zoe Hobbs’ U19 and U20 record of 11.53.
Talia won the U18 100m final comfortably ahead of Manawatu’s Collette sisters, Chayille and Addira, who followed her to the tape in second and third.
The year 11 student at City Impact Church School on the North Shore, also won the U18 Women’s 100m hurdles in a personal best time of 13.84.
Needless to say, Talia was happy with her performance. “I was very happy with those results,” she said, “they were unexpected to be honest. I was just annoyed about the illegal wind for the 100m final, but there is always next time to keep improving.”
Talia then joined the Auckland Women’s U18 4 x 100m relay team, along with Amelie Fairclough (16), Katelyn Quay-Chin (15) and Marielle Venida (16), to help set a New Zealand under 17 record of 46.77 breaking the New Zealand team of Amy Robinson, Talia Horgan, Abby Goldie and Zoe Hobbs time of 47.29 set in Sydney in 2013.
“Overall, I’m stoked with my times. It gives me the confidence knowing that my legs can even run that fast.”
It has been a busy summer of sprinting for Talia. “I’ve also competed in Cooks Classic, Capital Classic and Sir Graham Douglas International. They were all great competitions to compete in and I got great personal bests as well.
“My highlight for all three has to be running with those older girls and being able to run next to them.”
Talia is looking to round out her successful season with the College Sport Auckland Champs and the popular Night of 5s meet, on Wednesday 23 March at AUT Millennium in Auckland.
She then hopes to compete in the Oceania Championships in Queensland in June and possibly the World U20 Athletics Championships in August in Colombia, which she qualified for in Hastings.
At the end of the year there is the NZSS Championships in Inglewood, where she will be competing in the Senior Girls grade for the first time.
She won the Junior Girls 80m Hurdles and was third in the Junior Girls 100m as a year 9 at the most recent NZSS Championships meet in Tauranga in December 2020.
Talia moved to New Zealand from South Africa in August 2015, having been born in Pretoria and raised in a town called Heidelberg.
Her family has an athletics background.
“Both my parents did athletics so you could say they already had that natural running ‘brains’. My mum used to coach in South Africa where I would just watch, but I started competitively in year 7. I started performing decently good times when I was 12.
“They have always coached me, but only around four years ago my dad started coaching me more seriously, it’s a lot nicer to have my parents as my coaches especially for events nowadays where you can only have your coach near you and for me that would be my parents, which is really nice.”
Talia used to play hockey, but her sole sporting focus now is understandably athletics.
“I used to play Hockey quite competitively but lost my love and passion for it, so now I focus on Athletics.
“I train around 6 times a week, and 95 percent of my training is track work and the other 5 percent would be rehab or recovery.”
What is a single meet highlight so far? “I would have to say my races at the New Zealand Nationals this year because it was my first ever Nationals and coming home with three Golds is something I can’t complain about. And then even getting very close to the National record was also a highlight. I do have another year to try and break it.”
Looking ahead, Talia is eyeing the shorter sprinting distances. “I’m probably going to continue specialising in the 100m and the 100m Hurdles events. They work well together, so hopefully they can become my main events.”
Talia has a bright future on the track that hopefully is not slowing down anytime soon.
Story by Steven White for College Sport Media, March 2022.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand