Liam Prouting-Gardner has found his way back to the track.
After joining North Otago Athletics Club at age 10, Liam stepped away from the sport a year later, as there was no senior coach to help him progress.
Eighteen months ago, Liam (17) re›joined the club, under the guidance of new club coach Sue Brydges, who took sessions for senior competitive athletes.
Brydges helped Liam find his discipline, the 400m, and since then, the longer distance had been his focus.
‘‘I can’t be a 100m sprinter because I can’t build up the pace, so my coach pointed me towards the 400m — it’s been really good,’’ Liam said.
The St Kevin’s College pupil’s focus and hard work paid off last month, when he won silver in the under-18 400m at the New Zealand track and field championships. He also placed eighth in the 300m hurdles.
While competing in his first big event on the national stage was a great experience, Liam knew he was capable of more.
‘‘I wasn’t chuffed with it, because I knew my performance could have been better, but it was still great getting [a medal].’’
Before heading to nationals, Liam applied for the Otago Academy of Sport talent development programme, and following his strong outing at the championships, he was selected. He is the only athlete from North Otago in the 2022 programme.
The programme, lead by Carmel Leslie, focused on theory at present, teaching athletes how to look after their nutrition and bodies. Liam will travel to Dunedin for training sessions, and have a training programme tailored to his needs.
Brydges encouraged Liam to apply for the programme, and he was looking forward to the added benefits it could bring him.
‘‘My coach said, ‘It’ll give you a better understanding of what you need to do to go down the right path’,’’ he said.
Liam was enjoying the competitive side of athletics, and the social side.
At present, he was focused on winter training and the football season, before competing at secondary school nationals at the end of the year.
He hoped more senior athletes became involved in North Otago Athletics.
‘‘There’s three seniors, but the rest are year 9 and 10s, so it would be good to see them go up all the way through.’’