The reel deal . . . Olivia Mavor (15) earned 12 ribbons at the New Zealand Highland and National Dancing Championships this month. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

Olivia since she was 3 years old.

She entered her first competition at age 5, and 10 years later is still at it.

Earlier this month, she was named under-16 New Zealand champion at the 2021 New Zealand Highland and National Dancing Championships.

“I was really shocked,” Olivia (15) said.

The championships were held in Oamaru, and attracted 271 competitors from across the country.

At the national championships, competitors are graded on 10 different dances. The results are then tallied to determine the top 10 dancers in each age group.

Going into the competition, Olivia hoped to win a couple of dances. She never expected to win five and come away with the op ranking for her age group.

She had been climbing up the ranks over the past few years. Last year, she was ranked third overall in the under-16 age group, and 10th overall the year before.

During the dances, she would think about what her mother, Kimberley, and mentor, Tannah McLay, told her.

But other times she would not think at all focus on the movements she had been perfecting all year.

The New Zealand Highland and National Dancing Championships were what every dancer worked towards, Olivia said.

“There are so many dancers around the country working [towards it].”

Some dedicated themselves to dance, not participating in any other sports – usually by the instruction of their dance teachers, she said.

For the St Kevin’s College year 11 pupil, participating in other sports – such as the school’s top netball team – kept her interested in highland dancing.

She enjoyed how it allowed her to compete as an individual, but she kept good dancing company in Oamaru.

Her mother, who runs the Kimberley Mavor School of Dance, was also her teacher.

Training and travelling to competitions was their way of spending time together, Olivia said.

“When I’m dancing it’s when I can talk to her.”

Olivia said she would spend the rest of the year entering smaller competitions and working towards a dance exam in September.