His spot is not guaranteed, but Max Yanzick is still training hard for the World Schools Cross-country Championships.
The St Kevin’s College year 12 pupil has been selected as a reserve for the New Zealand secondary schools team to attend the world championships in Slovakia next year.
His selection comes on the back of an impressive year in both track and cross-country running.
Although his spot was not guaranteed, Max (16) said he will still be training for the event should something happen to one of the three runners who are travelling at this stage.
“I talked with my coach and we decided to work towards it and if I don’t get to go then I will probably carry my fitness over for the cross-country season here anyway,” Max said.
His selection was hampered by a disappointing showing in the national secondary school cross-country event in Timaru, but he rebounded to finish a creditable fourth in the New Zealand Under-18 Club Championships, racing against some year 13 pupils.
He set a personal best in that 6km race, finishing in 19min 44sec.
“I was really happy with that. It was a bit of redemption after the secondary schools champs.”
He started running “seriously” about 18 months ago after his brother, Benny, also a runner, noticed a natural ability.
“In year 11 I decided to give up rugby and focus on running.
“I won a few races and Craig Motley, who coaches in Timaru, asked if I wanted to train with him.”
Max now travels to Timaru each Tuesday to do speed training and work on his running form, which supplements the 90km distance he averages each week.
“[Form] is actually quite an important part of running, the training is more about consistency than how fast you are going.”
Max competes in track events in the summer and cross-country in the winter, which he said was “quite common” for athletes to do.
His favourite event was the 3000m (track), but he also enjoyed the rough and tumble of cross-country racing.
“I like the speed on the track, but in cross-country every race is on a different course, so you get more variety.
“It can get a bit crazy. Last year in Taupo one guy got trampled and broke his wrist, and I had to jump over another one.”
Whether he makes the World Championships in Slovakia or not, Max’s main goal is to get an athletic scholarship to study in the United States.
“One guy who I was training with in Timaru just got a full scholarship to Philadelphia and is running division one athletics and I managed to beat some of his records this year.
“You have some of the best coaching in the world over there and bigger fields to run against.
“There are high-schoolers now who do sub four minute miles.”
With a personal best of 8min 48sec for 3km, his times are good enough to start getting noticed, but Max is not getting ahead of himself.