TOP ATHLETES: Karen Hanlen, left, and Stacey Waaka at the Whakatane High School assembly to honour them and other high-achieving athletes. Photos Troy Baker D8618-35/15

SIX top athletes who were once students of Whakatane High School were honoured at a special assembly on Thursday last week.

Rowers Noel Mills and Nathan Twaddle, swimmer Toni Jeffs, mountainbiker Karen Hanlen, canoeist Lisa Carrington, rugby player Stacey Waaka and rugby league player Benji Marshall each, or their families, have provided the school with framed playing uniforms, which will be displayed in the school hall.

School principal Chris Nielsen told the assembly – he hoped the display of uniforms would help students to aspire to reach the same heights as those honoured.

Karen Hanlen and Stacey Waaka were at the assembly, as were members of the other athletes’ families.

Speaking to the assembly, Waaka said that in the life of a high-performance sportsperson there were a lot of highs and lows but many benefits while competing on the world stage.

She said she was honoured to be a part of the assembly and hoped the uniforms would remind students of what could be achieved.

“I just hope that there is someone in this room who can dream and believe in themselves so much that they will be able to achieve as I have had,” she said.

Whakatane High School’s top athletes








Noel Mills

– rowing

Mills was a Whakatane High School student from 1958 to 1959.

He was a New Zealand rower who won an Olympic silver medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. He died in 2004.








Toni Jeffs

– swimming

Jeffs was a student at the school from 1982 to 1985.

She is a a former freestyle swimmer who competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics, finishing 27th equal in the 50m freestyle. In the same event, Jeffs twice won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games, in 1998 and in 2002.






Karen Hanlen

– mountain biking

Hanlen was a student at the school from 1993 to 1997.

She is a former New Zealand mountain biker. She represented New Zealand at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, competing in the women’s cross-country cycling event. She also represented New Zealand at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.







Nathan Twaddle

– rowing

Twaddle was a student at the school from 1990 to 1994.

He is a former New Zealand rower and Olympic medallist. He competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, in the coxless pair rowing with his partner George Bridgewater and won a bronze medal.






Stacey Waaka

– rugby

Waaka was a student at the school from 2008 to 2013.

She is a current New Zealand rugby union player, who debuted for the Black Ferns in 2015, and won the junior sportswoman of the year award that same year. She has played in both the Black Ferns and the Black Ferns Sevens.





Benji Marshall  

– rugby league

Marshall was a student at the school from 1998 to 2000.

He is a New Zealand professional rugby league player who made his debut for the Sydney West Tigers in 2005, since he has played for the Brisbane Broncos and St George Dragons.

He was recalled last week into the Kiwis team and is a former Kiwis captain.








Lisa Carrington

– kayaking

Carrington was a student at the school from 2003 to 2007.

She is a New Zealand flat water canoe sprinter. She has won five world championships and is a multi-Olympic gold medallist. She has won the Halberg Sportswoman of the Year Award, for the past three years and won the supreme award in 2016.