Esther takes lead
Esther Keown is the leader of the pack.
The 16-year-old won gold in the world secondary school crosscountry championship in the Czech Republic last month.
Her time of nine minutes, 18 seconds put her an impressive seven seconds ahead of the second-placed Belgian in the 3000 metre race.
And to top things off New Zealand won the team gold at the event, with Christchurch’s Hannah Newbould coming in fourth.
While Esther led for most of the race, she says she had a feeling the team had done well not long after she crossed the finish line.
“I was looking back and could see a clump of black.
“I had a clue when they were across the line within 30 seconds of me.”
The Auckland Girls Grammar student also faced a number of challenges during the race, including shirt pulling from her opponents and a barrage of unusual languages from the sideline.
“The coaches screaming in different languages freaked me out,” she says.
Esther, who is coached by John Bowden and runs for the Auckland City Athletics Club, is set to take part in more overseas action with races in Germany and England before competing in the 1500 metre race at the world junior championships in Poland in July.
This comes after wins in the New Zealand secondary schools junior women’s 1500 metres in December and the New Zealand under-17 women’s 3000 metres in March. Esther’s goal is to one day win a medal for New Zealand in the 1500 metre event at the Olympics.
But for now, proud dad Mark Keown is still revelling in his daughter’s win.
“I didn’t expect it. I thought maybe she could get in the top 10,” he says.
“So when I found out I was blown away and immensely proud.”
Mr Keown says he also has to make sure his daughter doesn’t overdo training before her next overseas trip.
“She does 40 minutes six days a week, but we don’t let her run over 55 minutes or she could get injured.
“We don’t have to push her into training – we have to pull her back.”
To help Esther with sponsorship for her overseas events, email MKeown@bcnz.ac.nz.
Training hard: Esther Keown runs for up to six hours a week in preparation for her long-distance races.
Leading from the front: Esther Keown breaks away from the other competitors in the world secondary school crosscountry champs in the Czech Republic last month.