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21 September 2017 - By Mick Jensen - Ashburton College Year 12 student Taonga Mbambo credits hard work for the big strides he's made in competitive long distance running over the last six months.

  Since setting a new college best mark in the 3000m at the Aoraki Secondary Schools Athletics Championships in March, the 16-year-old has gone on to perform well at regional, South Island and national level.
Competing in mainly Under 18 events, he ran his best 6km time of 20.02 to finish second in the Canterbury Road Championships in August.
His time of 17m:01s for the 5km distance earned him a third place at the South Island Cross Country Championships at the beginning of July.
Other impressive performances have seen him claim 13th at the New Zealand Cross-Country Championships, second in the Canterbury Cross-Country Championships and fourth at the Canterbury Secondary Schools Road Championships in May.
His most recent race was at the New Zealand Road Race Championships earlier this month, where he placed eighth with a time of 20m:52s for the 6km distance.
Born in Zambia, Taonga emigrated to New Zealand with his family when he was seven.
The family moved to Ashburton two years ago when his father, Henry, took up the minister role at St David's, Allenton.
A keen footballer, Taonga only started getting serious about his running earlier this year and clocks up around 70km each week in training.
Hard work and training had helped him rise up the running ladder this season, he said.
``If I had to choose my favourite surface it would probably be the track, but I do enjoy cruising downhill on the cross country courses.''
Taonga is coached at the University of Canterbury Athletics Club by Craig Motley and has the national track and field championships in his sights in early December.
``I'm not sure what I'll be running at the moment - it could be the 3000m, or maybe the steeplechase,'' he said.
As well as being keen to get his hands on a national title one day, the hard training teenager hopes his running talents can also help earn him a sports scholarship to an American university. 

 

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Taonga Mbambo
 
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