In a story that seriously defies the laws of probability, two next-door neighbours and best pals have been selected to feature in the six-strong New Zealand team heading to the IAAF World Youth Championships in Cali.

Steeplechaser Kelsey Forman and heptathlete and high jumper Phoebe Edwards will form one third of their national team in Colombia in July after both enjoyed a breakthrough season in their respective events.

The 17-year-old duo, who are less than a month apart in age, first met ten years ago when Phoebe and her family relocated from England and settled in the house next to Kelsey and her family in the Wellington suburb of Island Bay.

Time has blurred the precise memories of their first meeting, but Phoebe recalls: “I think my parents went over to Kelsey’s house and introduced themselves. We were friends pretty much straight away.”

Sharing a mutual passion for sport the pair both started athletics together at the age of nine and their new-found interest even spilled over into back garden competitions.

“I remember we once had a high jump competition using the scissors technique, although Kelsey was the better high jumper back then,” admits Phoebe, who ironically is now the high jump specialist.

Ahhh so excited to qualify for the world youth games in Colombia with a new personal best of 1.77 ! 😜👍 #tracknation

A photo posted by Phoebe Edwards (@phoebe.edwards) on

Kelsey started out as a sprinter/hurdler and high jumper impressing on all fronts but Phoebe admits her interest in athletics started to waver for a period as gymnastics started to dominate

“Aged 12 it was all about gymnastics and I really wanted to quit [athletics],” she explains. “I used to beg my parents not to go to athletics training.”

However, her parents insisted she should persevere with athletics and it proved a wise move. After Phoebe quit gymnastics aged 14 she became “more focused” on athletics and started to improve.

By this point in their athletics journey the Wellington East Girls’ College students also started to gravitate towards different disciplines of the sport. Kelsey towards cross country and endurance running and Phoebe towards multi-events.  

This season both athletes targeted a spot on the plane for Colombia and after Phoebe met the qualification standard for the high jump with 1.77m in January, Kelsey was determined to match her best friend‘s achievement in her event - the 2000m steeplechase.

“Once Phoebe had got the qualification [standard] I didn’t want to be the one stuck at school when she would be in Colombia,” says Kelsey. So she duly dipped below the qualification standard of 7:00.0 with a 6:52.72 clocking to win the national under-18 championships in Wellington in March to complete a remarkable improvement in the event by more than 18 seconds this year.

I believe I can fly 🏃✈

A photo posted by Kelsey Forman (@kelsey_forman) on

Following Phoebe’s 1.77m high jump she continued to impress clearing 1.79m at the Australian Junior Championships before smashing through the 5000pts barrier for the first time and attaining the world youth championships qualification standard for the heptathlon with 5163pts at the Australian champs in Brisbane.  

The Wellington Harrier Athletic Club duo will now step up their preparations for Cali in contrasting style; Kelsey is using cross country racing as an important part of her build-up, while Phoebe hopes to focus 100 per cent on training and bringing “the high jump mats inside” to avoid the worst ravages of the notoriously wet and windy weather in Wellington.

The pair who also played together on the same school football team – Kelsey as a left midfielder and Phoebe as a striker – both hope to reach the finals in their respective individual events in Cali, with the latter uncertain as to what she can achieve in the heptathlon.

Training with different coaches the pair travel to training independently but regularly share a car ride together to competitions and rarely a day goes by when they don’t spend time in each other’s company.

Phoebe describes Kelsey as the “more excitable” of the pair, while Kelsey brands Phoebe the “more serious” of the duo. Yet the multi-eventing high jumper admits she owes Kelsey everything for her involvement in the sport.

“If I hadn’t had moved next to Kelsey and her family, I really don’t think I would have got started in the sport,” she acknowledges.

As for Kelsey, she is simply relishing the prospect of competing in the world’s biggest athletics competition for under-18 athletes with her neighbour and best mate.

“It’s kind of cool to think only six people in the whole country have qualified for the team and we are neighbours,” she adds.