taonga mbambo 3Taonga Mbambo (right) leads the pack around the bend. Photos SuppliedDespite only seriously giving running a go in the past six-months, Ashburton’s Taonga Mbambo has his sights set on leaving New Zealand’s best in his wake.

Mbambo, originally from Zambia, moved to New Zealand when he was eight with his family, with Dunedin being their first home in New Zealand.

They made the move north to Ashburton two years ago, with Mbambo enrolling at Ashburton College, where he is currently in Year 12.

An avid Manchester United fan, football is another strong focus for Mbambo, having represented both Otago and Mid Canterbury on the field.

In the past few months however, it has been on the cross country trail where he has hit the national heights.

Mbambo recently placed second at the Canterbury Cross Country Championships, which booked him a place on the six-man Canterbury team that will travel to Auckland later this month for the National Cross Country Championships.

“Hopefully I will finish in the top 20, but to come back with a team medal would be great,” he said.

He showed what he had to offer at the South Island Championships earlier in the year, placing third, while also posting a respectable 43rd out of 225 at the Secondary Schools’ Nationals.

Mbambo said the moment he decided to have a serious go at running was back in March at the Aoraki Secondary Schools’ Athletics, where he broke the 2000m record.

Now, with the help of a coach, he is training six times a week, rain or shine.

The distances he covers varies from day to day, with some being “just 5km” or up to 15 or 16km.

“With the weather it is quite hard to get out sometimes, especially when it is pouring outside,” he said.

With competition tough to come by in Mid Canterbury, the Ashburton College student regularly finds himself making the trip to Christchurch to get as much racing in as possible.

When summer swings around, the focus will switch to the track, with not as many track events being held in the winter.

When it comes to idols, Great Britain’s Olympic running legend Mo Farah tops the list.

As for the future, Mbambo will be heading in to his final year of school next year, with his main sights on a top 20 finish at the national championships, with the ultimate goal of making it in to the New Zealand Cross Country team.

By Jaime Pitt-MacKay © The Ashburton Guardian - 20 July 2017

Eight young rugby players from Mid Canterbury are this week getting the chance to not only improve their rugby mc cantabriansThe eight rugby players attending the Cantabrians’ training camp in Burnham this week. are (from left) Marcus Bishop, Elama Touli, Thomas Henderson, Caleb Johansen, Ashton McArthur, Mitchell Woolf, Devin Coyle and Braxton Morrison. Photo Suppliedskills, but gain some important life ones as well.

The camp, held in Burnham, sees 46 young rugby players come together for four days for a variety of activities.

Mid Canterbury Rugby development officer Jason Ree said they would be split in to two teams of 23 and play two games, while also working on drills and hearing from guest speakers.

“They will be on a military style plan, getting up early, working hard and eating what the soldiers are eating,” he said.

Ree said Mid Canterbury Rugby has been providing the opportunity for players to go to the camp for quite a number of years now, which was set up by an ex-Canterbury player who saw a gap in the market to get the mojo up again in rugby players between the ages of 16 and 18.

“It is not about the high performance stuff, it is more about life in general and giving them a good experience,” Ree said.

Local attendees are:

Marcus Bishop – MC Combined

Elama Touli – MC Combined

Thomas Henderson – Methven/Celtic U16

Caleb Johansen – Southern/Hampstead U18

Ashton McArthur – Celtic U18

Mitchell Woolf – MC Combined

Devin Coyle – Celtic U18

Braxton Morrison – MC Combined

By Jaime Pitt-MacKay © The Ashburton Guardian - 20 July 2017

Ashlee Strawbridge Sophie Adams BasketballAshlee Strawbridge (left) and Sophie Adams were back hitting the court yesterday after returning from the Australian U16 State Basketball Championships. Photo Jaime Pitt-MacKayDespite nearly a week straight of basketball, there is no rest for Mid Canterbury’s Ashlee Strawbridge and Sophie Adams as they continue to chase their basketball dreams.

The pair returned home on Monday after representing New Zealand as part of the U16 squad that finished fifth at the U16 Australian State Basketball Championships.

The side secured fifth place after defeating NSW Metro 73-54 in the playoff for fifth and sixth.

Both Strawbridge and Adams said the highlight of the tournament was the last game, which they described as the best team performance they had all tournament.

One big difference the pair found from basketball in New Zealand was the level of officiating.

“They pick up on a lot more and there are a lot more fouls and travels called,” Strawbridge said.

“We were probably getting called up on eight travels a game at least.”

It was an intense experience for the pair from the first step off the plane, travelling straight from the airport when they arrived in Perth to their first training session, and due to time difference, not finishing until midnight NZ time.

To go along with their one match they played a day, the pair also trained once a day.

Both said they felt they played well in the tournament, even if the stats did not truly reflect their performances.

They will now turn their attention to helping out the Ashburton College team in their Whelan Trophy campaign before the South Island tournament in September.

Ashburton College coach Andrew Shepherd said the goal from that tournament is to qualify for nationals later in the year.

By Jaime Pitt-MacKay © The Ashburton Guardian - 19 July 2017