Cameron Avery found an extra gear over the summer.
He left school at Christchurch’s Cashmere High School at the end of last year and promptly went on a winning spree, capturing the ‘triple crown’ of New Zealand distance U20 track events – the national junior 3,000m, 5,000m and 10,000m titles.
“The recent track season was my most successful one ever,” Cameron said. “Traditionally track hasn’t been my best as there’s faster guys and I really needed to grind out races. Usually I have to race 3,000m or longer to really hit my straps and get a rhythm going.”
“Over the summer I managed to increase my finishing speed and I won those three events over a two month period.”
He rated winning the first one of the three, the 3,000m in Hastings, as the most satisfying because it was his breakthrough track title and because he wasn’t expected to win.
Cameron beat a pair of young athletes who are still at school into second and third to win the 3,000m title, Isaiah Priddey (Hamilton Boys’ High School) and James Uhlenberg (Sacred Heart College), who had beaten Avery in the NZSS race just a few weeks previously.
The 3,000m race played into his hands. “I’ve always had a fatal flaw of leading and then being like the sacrificial lamb at the end. The previous week I had run a race in a PB in which we went out really slowly and then we closed faster than I had ever done before and it seemed like I had put in half the effort.”
“Then the National title race was slowing up as well but at the 2km mark I put my head down and never looked back and hoped for the best.”
Crossing the tape as the winner gave him extra confidence and motivation to go on and win his more favoured national title races, the 10,000m and 5,000m ones in that order.
Most recently he competed in the Christchurch Half Marathon, finishing fifth overall in 1.09.21 (winner’s time 1.06.34).
“I was hoping to be a little bit faster, but unfortunately I had to stop about 200 metres from the finish to empty the contents of stomach – I had breakfast a bit too soon!
“I was still really happy with how I went. It is definitely something I am considering doing a lot more competitively in the future.”
What was a highlight from his secondary school running career?
“Making my first ever New Zealand team in Year 11 [in 2013]. I had only been training properly for about a year. I managed to hang on to the top senior boys at the NZSS cross country champs, which were on my home turf in Christchurch.
“It had been confirmed the night before that they weren’t going to be sending a NZSS to Israel for the World Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships - and qualifying for that team had been my goal. But I did qualify for the squad to Australia later that year, and subsequently made that team the next two years as well.”
Cameron has been running all his life, but he also credits where he lives as a big factor in his development.
“My house is literally right at the base of the Port Hills. I have got the luxury of stepping out the door in training and taking the flat road or the hills or both.”
“My main training partner Joey Dwyer only lives nearby and we improved greatly together in our last two years at school.”
Cameron’s coach is 1960 Olympic bronze medallist Barry Magee and mentor to several well-known New Zealand runners.
He admires Nick Willis. “I have had the honour of meeting him a couple of times. It was a real highlight to race him for the first time in the Christchurch Street Mile. All us juniors wanted a slow race so we could stay with all these top world ranked milers for as long as possible – we were lucky there as it didn’t kick off until about 500m to go!
“Nick has always been an inspiration for me, as well as a couple of local athletes like Rosa Flanagan.”
Cameron has been rewarded with a four-year USA university scholarship. “I’m heading to Stonybrook University on Long Island near New York, and I’ll be competing in cross country and both indoor and outdoor track and field.”
Academically he is looking at doing health science, but exactly what is not confirmed as their relevant qualifications vary to New Zealand’s.
Before he leaves, he’s aiming to compete in the National Cross Country Championships in Auckland in early August. “That will be my last race in New Zealand before I head overseas.”
Between now and then he’s in full training mode, currently running about 120km a week as well as doing some recreational fitness like going on mountain biking excursions across the hills with his mates.
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