Raglan teenage bowling star Ashleigh Jeffcoat has been selected to represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa later this year.
Up to 1000 young athletes aged 14-18 years would compete for 107 gold medals in nine sports at the fifth Youth Games in September, which could act as a springboard to future international competition for Ashleigh.
“It’s going to be a really good experience,” she said.
The 16-year-old Hamilton High School student would represent New Zealand in the lawn bowls division, along with a young male compatriot.
National bowling coach Dave Edwards selected several possible contenders – including Ashleigh – then Bowls New Zealand watched their progress over the last season before making its final choice.
During that time Ashleigh played with New Zealand’s development team against Australia, where the team won the series and took away the female trophy for the event.
Over summer she competed for the first time in the Heartland Bank National Open Championships in Auckland, making the finals in the women’s fours as possibly the youngest finalist at the national champs.
Ashleigh, who was only just finished her third season playing bowls, said it was a great honour to have even been selected for the long-list for the Youth Games.
“My friends are quite excited,” she said. “Now it’s like, ‘oh my god!’”
Training out of season was a little unusual, and had to be done on artificial “carpet” greens. It also had to be fitted in around schoolwork, but Ashleigh was managing to train about once a week.
“It’s weird because you’re not playing but you’ve still got to train.”
Her training would step up before the games in September and she would have a couple of tournaments to hone her skills on lawn greens again before flying out to the 30deg-plus heat of Apia.
Bowls New Zealand was footing the bill for Ashleigh and her fellow competitor to attend the Youth Games, where young athletes were competing in swimming, archery, athletics, boxing, rugby sevens, squash, lawn bowls, tennis and weightlifting events while staying together in the village-like accomodation.