Hutt Valley High School now has two national champion runners. Nick Smith is the incumbent NZSS Senior Boys 100m and 200m champion, while Phoebe McKnight is the newly crowned national U18 women’s cross country champion.
On Saturday, Year 11 student Phoebe won the Women’s U18 race at the New Zealand Cross Country Championships at the Auckland Domain.
“It’s probably the biggest win I have had so far,” she said, “I hadn’t raced in quite a while but I knew that I had a chance going into it.”
Phoebe won the 4km event in a brisk 14m 34s – 41 seconds ahead of second placed Charli Miller (St Peter’s School, Cambridge) who was just ahead of Liliana Braun (Cashmere High School).
“For about 1km I was running with Charli just behind me, and then she dropped off from there and I managed to pull away and win on my own.”
The win comes a month after she finished second in a tight Senior Girls race to the well-performed Hannah O’Connor (Sacred Heart College, New Plymouth) at the New Zealand Secondary School Cross Country Championships in Christchurch.
“I loved that race, it was good to be competitive with her, and it probably made for a good race for her as well as she must get sick of leading all the time!”
Phoebe, who won the year nine race two years ago, and Hannah were neck-and-neck throughout the NZSS event, Hannah eventually winning by three seconds and with almost 30 seconds back to third place and defending champions Tessa Webb (Feilding High School).
Next week she’s off overseas representing New Zealand. “In just over a week I am going over to Australia with the NZSS team for the Australian Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships.”
Phoebe is part of a 24-strong New Zealand team (12 boys and 12 girls) competing in the U18 and U20 races at the Australian championships in Hobart Jayme Maxwell, who is also from Hutt Valley High School, finished sixth in the same NZSS race and will be joining Phoebe in Hobart in the Girls U18 race.
Phoebe is also a track runner, specialising in the middle distance events.
“I’m old enough now to do the 5,000m, so I think either the 3,000m or the 5,000m is my specialty.”
She loves training around the local hills where she lives. “I like the eastern Hutt hills, the firebreaks. I like the Hutt Valley as there’s lots of different options. I am definitely a mountain goat.”
Phoebe was a competitive swimmer before she took up running seriously. “I have always done running and competitively outside school I have been running for four-five years now, but I have been swimming for longer.”
She won a bronze in the 200m butterfly at the national age grade champs.
What about combining the two and adding cycling in as well? “I have got my school triathlon coming up and my mum was a triathlete, so maybe when I get some downtime I will try them out.”
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