Mount Albert Grammar School Year 13 student and multisport newbie James Kirkham admits that he was just concentrating on staying in his kayak in the early stages of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Multisport race that he won on Sunday.
“The race started in the water with a big group together in our kayaks and a whole lot of people going for it and lots of wash from other people’s boats,” said James. “I haven’t done much kayaking and my main focus was just not falling out!”
But Kirkham, a nationally ranked junior mountain biker, used his strength in the saddle and a dose of old fashioned grit on the run to put himself in contention over the back half of the race.
“The race strung out and I basically hung on as much as I could in the kayak because I knew from my riding that once I got back on the beach I could really start packing on the pace on my bike.”
From there he started making up time and picking off people in front of him. “I think I made up about five or six minutes on the bike, and got into the second transition in the lead and then tried my hardest to hang on in the run.”
He explained that there was a decent uphill and a technical descent in the run, so all in all it was a tough race.
The 25 km race beside Rotorua’s Blue Lake was part of the 2016 3D Rotorua Multisport Festival. James was the first male home in his race, which was broken down into a 4.5 km paddle, a 15 km mountain bike ride and then a 5.5 km trail run home to the finish.
The Elite Senior Men’s event over 50 km was won by Hayden Wilde, Year 13 at Trident High School in Whakatane in 2015.
James entered with few expectations other than to test himself.
“I haven’t done much multisport before, this was my first full multisport race by myself, so didn’t really know to expect.”
“I came down last year and watched this event and I thought well, I can ride, I have got a friend who has got a boat, so why not give it a go and see how it ends up and how I stacked up against everyone else who was there.”
Pretty good, it turns out.
He was there representing his school, MAGS, but entered as an individual. He was there with his family as his sister was also competing in a team’s race.
Now he has a taste of winning his first multisport event, he says he’s keen for more races.
“I’ve always liked the idea of the Coast to Coast race as something I’d love to do in the future.
“Especially next year when I would’ve left school, I would like to do the full length 50 km race at Rotorua.”
James’s main background is mountain biking.
“For the past two years I’ve picked it up competitively and competed in Nationals and in the Oceania Championships down in Queenstown this year, finishing seventh in the Junior Men’s race.”
He’s also been riding in the Nduro Events series over the winter, with a series of races coming up, and he also does road cycling.
“We also have a school team that races throughout winter, in the Auckland Secondary Schools Champs.” This year’s NZSS Mountain Biking Championships are at the end of September in Dunedin.
He mainly trains for mountain biking at either Riverhead near Kumeu or Maraetai in southwest Auckland.
Next year James is weighing up his options, which may involve going to university straight away or even doing some racing overseas. “One of my goals is try and get to worlds next year.”
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