Niven Longopoa is the fastest U18 hurdler in the country. The Year 13 at Mount Albert Grammar School has run 14.19s over 110m and competed in the Youth Olympics.
He’s also part of the MAGS First XV rugby side preparing for this year’s Auckland 1A competition starting up soon.
In athletics Longopoa is coached by his Dad and laughs the pair have little idea about hurdling.
"We look up brainmac.co.uk and try out their advice. It's a pretty good website because we don't have a clue."
Longopoa is of Tongan and Samoan extraction. He started athletics because a club was across the road. At intermediate level he earned a place at the Collegiate Games and finished third in the 400m.
Progress was swift and last year he was the outstanding performer for MAGS at the North Island Secondary School Championships. He won four events, the 110m hurdles (equalling the championship record with a time of 14.52s). He also claimed the 300m hurdles title, with a new personal best of 39.15s, as well as winning the long jump with a leap of 6.78m. Additionally he was a member of the successful Auckland 4x 400m relay team and his sister Kalisi won the Junior Girls 70m hurdles with a personal best of 11.63s.
Despite this success Longopoa is uncertain whether he will continue with the sport as he harbours ambitions of becoming a professional rugby player.
"I love athletics, but to be honest there are more prospects in rugby and I enjoy the team environment. I have had this problem of being too small for rugby and too big for athletics. I will go to athletics Nationals if I can [at the end of this year], but I think I need to specialise with one sport," Longopoa says.
Longopoa is a fullback in rugby. He has an elusive counter attacker with a prodigious punt. He was the First XV goal-kicker last season and cracked the Blues U18s and Auckland Sevens sides. However there were two setbacks. Longopoa suffered a serious injury and MAGS just failed to reach the 1A semi-finals.
"I dislocated my shoulder while practicing pole vault. Apart from missing a lot of games it affected my confidence when I returned. I didn't feel 100% in the tackle," Longopoa admits
"We had a really strong team last year. We won a lot of games, but didn't bond as much as we could of."
MAGS will have no shortage of experience in 2016. Nearly the entire 2015 squad returns. Longopoa identifies some key figures in the roster.
"Caleb Clarke made the New Zealand Schools last year. He will play in midfield or on the wing. Salyn Tonu'u is a really good halfback and in the forwards Isaiah Papalii has played for New Zealand Schools league team and is a good flanker."
Interestingly Clarke and Tonu'u are the sons of All Blacks and Papalii is an Oceania Power lifting champion .
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