Scholarship taking squash star to US

Aria Bannister is squashing barriers.

The Otago squash star is jet-setting off to the United States at the end of the month, as the first New Zealand player to secure a three-year scholarship to St Paul’s High School, in New Hampshire.

The opportunity, which came to fruition through father Rod’s connections in the United States, was too good to pass up at the division one Boston school, complete with 10 designated squash courts.

‘‘Very excited ... a bit nervous to leave my family, but mostly excited,’’ Aria said.

Aria Bannister is heading to St Paul’s School, in New Hampshire, on a squash scholarship. PHOTO:...
Aria Bannister is heading to St Paul’s School, in New Hampshire, on a squash scholarship. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The 15-year-old looked forward to the experience attending a boarding school overseas would offer, helping her become professional in the sport and creating a pathway to a top-level college.

But the Trinity Catholic College pupil already has a pretty impressive resume.

She has won countless awards and titles, including being the national under-15 champion, South Island under-17 champion, Otago women’s senior open - the youngest to win the event - Otago girls under-19 junior champion, part of the national junior under-19 squad and is 10 points off an A grade ranking.

Asked to name her proudest achievement from her long list of accolades, Aria settled on breaking new ground with the scholarship.

‘‘I think I’m mostly proud of this achievement, getting able to go overseas and board at a top high school is incredible.

‘‘I haven’t even processed it yet really, and I probably won’t until I’m actually there, but definitely my favourite achievement.’’

After winning a national title last year, Aria travelled to the United States and Canada for various tournaments, which lit a fire in her belly.

‘‘That’s when I realised that I loved it and it’s what I wanted to do.

‘‘It was incredible, and seeing juniors excelling so well at such a young age was great.’’

Aria leaves New Zealand on August 28 and will start at her new school on September 4.