News & Updates

28 February 2024 • High Performance

Maia relishing Black Singlet debut

The 2023 NCAA women’s 1500m champion Maia Ramsden makes her debut in the Black Singlet at the 2024 World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow on Saturday.

Of the ten New Zealand athletes competing at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow from 1-4 March NZT, Maia Ramsden would be a strong candidate as the most thrilled team member.

The rising middle-distance talent grabbed her spot on the plane for Scotland with a massive breakthrough mile PB of 4:24.83 at Millrose Games and on Saturday morning (NZ time) opens her World Indoor Championships quest competing in the heats of the women’s 1500m.

For the US-based athlete her debut appearance in the Black Singlet is one to cherish – the next step on what she hopes will be a spot on the New Zealand Olympic team in Paris.

“I’m so excited (to be representing for country in Glasgow),” she says. “I talked to my coach about it, and we spoke about the World Indoors as a reach goal, but I didn’t think to run the standard would happen. I am just so happy.”

Maia, a student at the fabled Harvard University, has lived a cosmopolitan life. Born in the US to a Kiwi dad and a mum who hails from Connecticut because of her father’s work with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs for much of her school years she bounced around from country to country living in the US, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Ethiopia. During her formative years she also spent a three-and-a-half-year period based in Wellington.

Taking up running during her time living in Fiji she showed great promise as an age group athlete and in 2020 on a trip back to Aotearoa she secured the New Zealand U20 800m and 1500m double. Relocating from Ethiopia in 2020 to Harvard University – where she studies English Literature and History – she has steadily improved under the coaching of Alex Giddy and last year emerged as a special talent winning 1500m gold in 4:08.60 at the ultra-competitive NCAA Championships in Austin.

Benefited from more consistent and uninterrupted training she has continued to improve during the Northern Hemisphere winter. She won the Ivy League cross country title and placed 10th at the NCAA Cross Championships and was then lifted by a seven-second plus 3000m PB of 8:46.84 in Boston – which elevated the 21-year-old athlete to number four on the all-time New Zealand lists for the distance.

“I had a good cross country season, it is so much fun here at university because it is more of a team sport,” explains Maia. “I then ran that 3k time off cross country training, I felt really strong, it was a definite confidence booster.”

Returning home to New Zealand for a spell over Christmas, where she spent time in the Abel Tasman region helped recharge the batteries.

In her first mile race of the year in Boston on 3 February, she finished fourth in a PB of 4:30.01 and while pleased to grab a lifetime best, Maia admits she became a little too focused on times rather than racing.

“I was not too happy with that opener,” explains the Literature and History student. “It was a similar time to what I had run last year, (when she ran 4:30.19) I was a little bit greedy, but it was not a step backwards my any means.”

Invited to compete in the mile at the most iconic indoor meet in the world – the Millrose Games in New York – the following week, Maia described the opportunity as ‘a privilege’ but also accepted that she required a mindset shift from her 4:30 outing in Boston.

“I had put a lot of pressure on myself to get a qualifying time in Boston,” she explains. “For Millrose I had to focus more on trying to execute a good race.”

As part of the strategy, the day before Millrose she competed over 1600m as part of a distance medley relay for her college. Describing it “as super fun” she was also given a great pre-race response from the professional runners at the Millrose Games, who were according to Maia “super kind.”

Meeting a bunch of professional athletes and boosted by their supportive nature help relax Maia ahead of one of the biggest races of her life.

Running as hard as possible for “four-and-a-bit minutes” she was elated to cross the line eighth in 4:24.83 – under the entry standard time for the World Indoor Championships and also just shy of the 16-year-old New Zealand mile record of 4:24.14 held by Kim Smith.

“The plan was to get my nose in the race and hang on,” she explains. “My number one emotion as I crossed the line was shock that I had gone number two (on the all-time Kiwis lists for the mile) and so close to the New Zealand record. I thought maybe I could run between 4:25 and 4:27 and I would have been over the moon to run 4:27. I was super surprised to see that time.”

Maia, who competed at the weekend with a 3000m victory in 9:19.76 at the Ivy League Track & Field Championships in Cambridge, is now focused on Glasgow and delivering in the 1500m. Yet first she is looking forward to meeting her team-mates – which include the likes of Tom Walsh, Eliza McCartney, Zoe Hobbs and Hamish Kerr – in Scotland.

“I am so excited,” she explains. “I can first remember taking pics of some of these people at nationals when I was aged 13 or 14. To be able to share a space and a team with them, I’ll be trying to keep a lid on being a fan girl!”

Maia competes on the opening day in Glasgow with the starting gun firing on the 1500m heats at 8.05am NZT on Saturday. She will face a powerful field of seasoned athlete led by a trio of Ethiopian athletes – all with sub-four-minute PBs.

However, Maia, who celebrates her 22nd birthday later this month, has some clear objectives she wants to achieve inside the Emirates Arena – where her mum and grandmother will be present.

“My goals is to make the final and hopefully race well,” she explains. “It is my first experience at a major champs, and I really want to enjoy and learn from the experience. Hopefully this is not my only Black Singlet. Talking to (Alex) Giddy (Maia’s coach) he thinks I’m ready to run fast again, if not faster, which would be amazing. Heats are hard to practise in training, but it will hopefully give me the chance to get into some good racing habits.”

Beyond Glasgow, the following week Maia competes over the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Boston. In June a defence of NCAA 1500m will be a priority but given her outstanding start to the year (her 1500m split at Millrose was 4:07.18) the Paris Olympic Games is a possibility.