This year's NZCT AIMS Games has cracked another milestone, breaking through the 8000-athlete barrier for the first time.
With late entries providing a final burst, 8007 intermediate-aged competitors from 261 schools across New Zealand will be in Tauranga from this weekend (September 6-11), battling it out across 19 different sporting codes.
The massive numbers include 1164 netballers, 640 rugby players, 644 cross country runners and 768 basketballers. Yachting's debut has also attracted strong interest, with 64 sailors lining up for the Anchor-sponsored on-water event.
The tournament has grown every single year since it started in 2004 and tournament director Vicki Semple said it has started to create its own legacy.
"When we first started out with a few hundred competitors, we never would've dreamed the event would grow so much," she said. "The best part is that it gives every competitor the chance to compete in an event that's bigger than the Commonwealth Games and nearly as large as the Olympics, soaking up all the great things about sport like camaraderie, adventure and competition. By the end of next week, another 8000 athletes will be heading home inspired."
The geographical spread of schools competing is impressive - 19 Northland schools have entered, with 18 schools heading up from the South Island. Oturu School cross country runner Jayde Florian, based just out of Kaitaia, is the northernmost competitor, while Tahuna Normal Intermediate swimmers Charlotte Underwood-Nicol and Madison Wills are making the trek up from Dunedin.