Gifted teenage pole vaulter Imogen Ayris is another athlete out of the exciting stable of athletes coached by Jeremy McColl. Here the New Zealand Secondary Schools silver medallist and 4.05m vaulter answers our Five Minutes With questions.
What is your best athletics quality?
My gymnastics background has definitely helped develop me into the well-rounded rounded athlete I am today. I competed in gymnastics for many years and represented New Zealand. It taught me a lot about myself and has helped me become a better all-round athlete.
Why would you encourage anyone to try athletics?
There is something for everyone! You compete both alongside and against your team-mates, so it is lots of fun with a bit of competition. I have made lifelong friends through athletics.
Who was your first coach and how did they influence your career?
I started at Takapuna Athletics Club aged six and Mike and Meryl Hartshorne and the Gill family were my coaches and supporters from the beginning. They got me hooked on athletics and they believed I had the potential to go far in the sport. I was introduced to Jeremy McColl and fell in love with pole vault. I am so grateful for everything he does both for me and the squad and he is the reason pole vault is a growing sport in New Zealand.
What are your athletics weaknesses?
I've always been a competent runner however I tend to struggle to run well while carrying a 4.30m-long pole. It's something I need to work on as the extra speed and technical adjustments will have a huge influence on my jump.
What is the funniest things you’ve seen on an athletics track?
A couple of years ago at the Colgate Games I was sitting in the stands between events and watching the races on the track. It was a grade seven 60m race and obviously their first competition because as soon as the starting gun went off a couple of them burst into tears and one of them ran off the track. In the following race, all the kids stood on the start line with their hands on their ears. I feel bad for laughing, but it was quite funny!
What is your favourite athletics session?
Every Friday we do a gymnastics session and its always a lot of fun! We get the trampoline out, play games and pull some dodgy tricks, or we try the long bouncy tumble track (kind of like a bouncy castle) and do flip, rolls and all sorts of things. Jeremy never fails to come up with a wild and impressive skill for us to try!
What is the greatest thing you’ve witnessed in an athletics stadium?
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to watch the London Diamond League in the Olympic Stadium. The atmosphere was like nothing I've ever experienced - especially because I'm used to hot meets at Mt Smart Stadium on a Saturday afternoon. I witnessed Mo Farah run the 3000m, it was absolutely incredible! The home crowd were going insane and the whole stadium were on their feet cheering.
Who has been your toughest rival?
Before I transitioned into pole vault I was competing in high jump, long jump, hurdles, 100m. Cara Lonergan and I were always battling for the gold medal and it would vary between competitions who won what. Despite this, we somehow managed to keep our friendship intact! In pole vault it has got to be my training partner Olivia McTaggart. Livi and I were gymnasts together and now train and compete with each other for pole vault. It's great to have a team-mate who pushes me but who are get along so well with - it is definitely beneficial to both of us.
If you could star in another sport which sport would it be?
Growing up I absolutely loved netball and always wanted to represent the Silver Ferns. I played for both my school and North Harbour but, unfortunately, I had to drop netball to focus on pole vault.
When travelling to a meeting what is the most important item in your suitcase?
Poles for sure. You’re not much of a pole vaulter without your poles!
What is your greatest regret?
I wouldn't say I regret anything in terms of my progression as an athlete but there's nothing I miss more than playing a team sport.
Who is the person who most admire?
It's got to be Eliza McCartney! Not just because of her incredible talent but also for being an all-around amazing person. She has given me advice in all aspects of life and continues to be just a lovely and enthusiastic girl.
What are you most scared of?
Vomit. Ever since I was little I haven't been able to vomit. I simply just refuse to vomit and will run away if anyone is about to.
What is your favourite movie and why?
Harry Potter! Always has been and always will be. They are so cleverly made and there's just so much depth to them when you delve into the storyline.
When was the last time you looked at your athletics medals?
Last time I went to bed! They are all hanging up on my wall in my bedroom.