• Steff Chambers walking through the garages at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupō.
  • Steff racing at Mansfield.
  • Stella Ebert

Sterling Start to Sporting Year

It’s been a tremendous start to 2018 for several outstanding Westlake athletes. 


Vivian Yang (Year 9) won two titles at the New Zealand U14 Tennis Champs in Christchurch late January. Vivian won the Girls Singles title then followed this by also winning the Doubles title.

Not quite 2018, but still worthy of a mention is Elys Ventura (Year 12) who won the U18 Junior Singles National Tennis Championships in December. Elys also holds the U16 Junior National title – her hard working paying off with two major titles in one year.

Touch rugby
Seven Westlake students were members of the North Harbour Under-16 Touch team that won the NZ U16 Age Group National title in mid-February. The Westlake students in the winning team were: Makenzee Boucher (Year 10), Charli Foster (Year 11), Briar Hadfield (Year 11), Ellie Minton (Year 11), Kylie McGahan (Year 11), Briana Paea (Year 10) and Holly Williams (Year 11).

Beach Volleyball
The NZ Age Group and NZ Secondary Schools Beach Volleyball Championships were recently been held in Mt Maunganui. Tamara Otene (Year 12), was crowned the NZ U19 Beach Volleyball Champion, with Katie Sadlier and Zara Pocock (both Year 13) receiving the bronze medal in this age group. Domi Menoita (Year 10) was crowned the NZ U15 Champion and received the Legendary Medal for most outstanding performance of the event. In the NZSS event, Tamara Otene and Juliette Vukets (Year 12) came away with the silver medal in the Senior Girls grade, and Zara Pocock and Elizabeth Howard (Year 12) the bronze medal. 

In mid-February Tamar Otene and her beach volleyball partner from New Plymouth were selected to represent New Zealand at the Oceania Beach Volleyball Qualifying Event for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. The event will be held in Canberra, Australia 1-4 March.

Lune Strydom (Year 11) was a member of the Auckland U15 Representative Girls Cricket Team which won the New Zealand U15 Girls Cricket Championship  in Whanganui in mid-January 2018. Lune’s team was undefeated throughout the tournament.

Strong results for 2017

Westlake Girls High School NCEA academic results for 2017 were pleasing, with the school performing well above the national average.  

“More than 87% of our Year 11 students gained NCEA Level 1,” says Principal Jane Stanley. “In Levels 2 and 3, the results were even more impressive, with almost 94% gaining Level 2, and almost 93% gaining Level 3. A total of 83% achieved University Entrance. We are very pleased with these results and know our graduating students are well-equipped for tertiary study and beyond.”

A total of 136 students received Level 1 Academic Excellence Awards for gaining Excellence endorsements in NCEA, and 92 students received Level 2 awards. Sophie Hindley received the Anna Buchly Cup for Y11 Excellence, and Ashleigh Sun received the trophy for Academic Excellence at Year 12.

The 2017 scholarship results have been released and we would like to congratulate Shu Ting Zheng who received three scholarships (Statistics, Classical Studies, Biology), and twins Courtney (English) and Brianna Reynolds-Smith (History, English). Courtney and Brianna, along with Annabelle Rennie-Younger (Physical Education), are worthy of particular mention as all three are exceptionally accomplished sailors who spent time away from their Year 13 studies to compete in various yachting trials and championships. While balancing school work, Annabelle won the Yachting New Zealand Youth Trials and came fifth at the Junior World Champs in China, while Brianna and Courtney were named Under-20 Junior 470 women World Champions.

We had Outstanding Scholarships in two subjects – Statistics and Japanese. 

Chemistry teacher fast-tracking her career

As far as alter-egos go, chemistry teacher by day, and racing car driver by night, isn’t bad. 

Steff Chambers may not race at night, but the rest is true of the Westlake Girls Acting Head of Chemistry. “It’s great in class on a Monday,” she says. “My students always say ‘Miss, Miss, how did you go?’ They love the fact their teacher races at the weekends. 

The unusual hobby turned into a passion after her sons became more independent and she found herself with time to spare. “Both boys were athletes so I’d spent 99% of my spare time running around after them as they competed in baseball and archery. I decided it was time to do something for myself,” she says. Her first car, a Porsche 911 (964) was purchased through TradeMe. “When I was 18 I had a model of a slate grey Porsche 911 – I’d wanted one ever since I was a kid. When I saw that exact car for sale I knew I had to get it.”

Taking it to the track for a casual spin, her interest in racing quickly grew – as did her ability. “I’m a sponge,” she says. “I learn fast. I had mentors that taught me race craft – it’s the hardest skill I’ve ever learnt, it’s not something you innately do well. I had to unlearn some things.”

Convinced by other racers to take the sport up a notch, Steff purchased a 1990 Porsche 944 S2 and now races in the Pirelli Porsche Championship. It’s her second season, and with the assistance of major sponsor Actibush she has seen some impressive improvements. “Last season was a learning curve. I was slow but completed every race. This season I’ve had my first win – at Ruapuna in Christchurch. She’s currently sitting in second place on the table for her class, with just two of this season’s six rounds to complete.  

Being the only female in the Pirelli Porsche Championship is a point of difference - and a source of pride. “There’s a real thrill in it,” says Steff. “Now I know I can race well and it’s harder for the boys to pass me. We race as equals. We treat each other with respect and there is strong camaraderie amongst the drivers. If someone’s car is broken, others will help.”

Having won her first race, Steff’s goal now is to win a round which means winning two of three races. 

So what’s it like to get behind the wheel of a road car after racing around a track? “I’m quite a nanna in a regular car. Demerit points can affect your ability to race so I’m really careful.” 

In April, once racing is over, Steff will use the off-season to modify and improve her Porsche. “Next year my goal is to take out a championship,” she says.

Now that would be a good story for Monday morning class. 

Student selected for Commonwealth Games

Rhythmic Gymnast Stella Ebert isn’t fazed that she’s the youngest person in the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team travelling to Queensland in April. In fact, the 15 year-old Year 11 student at Westlake Girls High School can’t wait to perform – despite most of her competitors being at least five years her senior. 

“I only experience nerves at the bigger competitions – and with the Commonwealth Games I know I just need to keep them under control,” she says. “I’ve never had an experience like this before so I’m really excited to see what its like.”

More of an issue for the young gymnast was keeping the news of her selection quiet for over a week. “I knew I was looking pretty good – but anything can happen. So when they rung and said I’d been selected I was excited. But they said I couldn’t tell anyone for a week and a half which was really hard. They announced it publicly on Monday [5 February] but I was actually more excited on the Thursday.”

Stella has had her fair share of success on the gym floor, but selection into the Commonwealth Games team is an obvious highlight. She is the youngest person on the NZ team by just nine days, with Stella Ashcroft (Women's Artistic Gymnast) from Christchurch also selected.  

Stella’s gymnastic abilities have grown steadily since she first joined kindy gym as a toddler, and then rhythmic gymnastics aged just five. Showing natural aptitude, she was quickly put into a competition class and worked her way up through several national and international competitions. Moving clubs in 2015, she now trains with Marnie Sterner of Xtreme Rhythmix. 

She’s recently dominated the New Zealand rhythmic gymnastics scene and has won every national competition there is. International travel has included events in Azerbaijan, Budapest, Greece, Bulgaria and Namibia – where she placed third overall in the Junior Commonwealth Championships in 2016. She also secured eighth place at the Pacific Rim Championships in the United States. Most recently, Stella competed on 18 Feb at the Australia Cup in Coomera, Gold Coast. She placed 1st in her Clubs routine, bringing home Gold. Her overall placing was fifth.

Stella is first to admit managing the various aspects of her life takes a lot of planning and co-ordination. She trains 36 hours a week, making sure she keeps up with her studies. “After training I get home and do my homework to catchup on anything I’ve missed,” she says. “I have to be very organized or my life doesn’t work. I take heaps of notes! I’m also grateful to my parents and coach who support me – I couldn’t do it without them.” 

When she takes to the floor at the Coomera Sports Centre in April, there are certain teams she’ll be watching out for. “I’ve competed against the Malaysian girls and they’re good. So are the teams from Great Britain, Wales and Canada – and of course they will be much older than me!”

Competition will involve two routines in the morning and two more routines in the afternoon. Each will comprise either hoop, clubs, ball or ribbon. “I’m not really thinking beyond the qualifying round at this stage,” she says. 

“I love it when I do a good routine and the crowd is cheering at the end. I live for that feeling – it’s what I enjoy most about competing. That’s what I’m looking forward to most at the Commonwealth Games – aside from the Opening Ceremony.”

After the Games Stella will take a break from gymnastics to give her body a rest, and then it’s back into training for the World Champs in September. Beyond that? “My ultimate goal is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. And I’m young enough that if I don’t make it, then I’ll have another go.” 


Issue 85 March 2018