Star of the sea

MARIAH Jones' parents displayed acute foresight 18 years ago when they named their beautiful baby daughter, Mariah.

A Google search quickly reveals that Mariah means "star of the sea".

That she certainly is.

During the recent Australian Surf Life Saving Championships on the Gold Coast, Mariah showed a clean pair of heels to her rivals to win gold in the Under 19 girls surf race, following up a silver medal won earlier in the Champion Life Saver event.

Capping off a memorable week for the delightful young lady was a trip down to Sydney on Tuesday to attend an awards ceremony at the State Library.

The 2012 NSW Schools Nanga Mai Awards celebrate and recognise innovation, excellence and achievement in Aboriginal education in NSW public schools, school communities and within the department's regional and state offices.

Nanga Mai is an Eora (Sydney) word meaning to dream.

Awards are presented to Aboriginal students, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff, regions, schools and community members across several categories.

The Nanga Mai Awards contribute to the achievement of the Department's commitment to bridging the gap in the performance of Aboriginal students and that of the general student population.

Accompanying Mariah to Sydney for the awards were her older sister Ronella Phillips and Auntie Chris Morgan, the Aboriginal Education Officer at Mariah's former alma mater, Tweed River High.

Mariah completed her Higher School Certificate at TRH last year and is currently undertaking her first year of Bachelor of Business studies at Griffith University.

Both Auntie Chris and Ronella burst into sustained applause at the Nanga Mai Awards when Mariah was called on stage and presented with a framed certifi- cate for Outstanding Achievement in Sport.

"I am just so happy to be recognised," Mariah said.

Short on talking but long on achievements in sport and life in general!

Not only is Mariah a star of the sea, she is also adept in still water and next week competes at the Australian Age Championships in Brisbane where she is expected to be very competitive in the 50m, 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle events.

As much as she loves matching strokes with rivals in the pool, Mariah's passion is the surf.

She followed her dad, Rod, now the president of Tweed-Coolangatta SLSC, into the surf lifesaving movement, becoming a tadpole at four years.

Her achievements in the surf earned her an invitation last year to become the ambassador for the Indigenous Water Safety Program which enables kids in the bush to complete first-aid and resuscitation courses and complete swimming programs.

Mariah was thrilled to beat home a hot field in the national titles surf race which starts and finishes with a short run up the beach after swimming around a series of buoys about 50 metres off the beach.

"I was helped in that there wasn't much of a surf which suited my still-water swimming," Mariah said.

Mariah was first into the water and led by over a body length from a packed field rounding the first buoy and then maintained her narrow lead until slipping past the final buoy and heading for the beach and finish.

"I was joined soon after by Jesscia (Collins) and Ann (Glen) and the three of us just kept ahead of the others until we were able to stand for the run out of the shallows and up the beach.

Topics:  surf life saving

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