NOOSA Heads' Kirsty Higgison has made the perfect start to her debut Nutri-Grain Series by claiming yesterday's opening round at Coolum, putting her in the box seat to take out this year's title ahead of today's second round.
The 22-year-old was joined on the podium by fellow club mate Jordan Mercer who finished third marking a strong day for the surf lifesaving-mad region.
Higgison qualified fifth fastest for the pursuit final, a format which gave competitors a handicap based on their results from the first two heats.
She started the race from fifth, essentially giving her an eight-second handicap behind fastest qualifier, Mercer.
Not that it worried her.
Higgison quickly caught the lead group that included reigning series champion Liz Pluimers.
She held her place in the pack before kicking in the final swim leg to claim a comfortable victory.
"I thought it would be a sprint finish and just wanted to stick with them as much as I could," Higgison said.
"I tried to relax and swimming is my weakest leg but I have done a lot of work with my swim coach Michael Sage.
"I had no idea where I was (when I got the beach) and just put my head down and sprinted as fast as I could."
Higgison's rise in the sport hasn't been easy after she missed out on competing in the 2014-15 series on a count back.
The setback filled her with a determination that saw her finish atop of the 2014-15 Surf Ironman Qualifying Series enabling her to take her place in this year's top-tier campaign.
"It motivated me so much and there was nothing more in the world I wanted than to qualify for this," Higgison said.
"To know that I have done the hard work is great."
MERCER, who led for most of the race, said she could not be happier for her training buddy.
"It is a pretty sweet day to come third to Kirsty Higgison," she said.
"It has been a blessing to have her as a training partner and I have certainly enjoyed it.
"Thanks coach (Darren Mercer), you did a bloody good job."
Maroochydore's Ella Brown finished ninth on debut.
Round One results: 1 Kirsty Higgison, 2 Harriet Brown, 3 Jordan Mercer, 4 Brodie Moir, 5 Liz Pluimers, 6 Maddy Dunn, 7 Karlee Nurthen, 8 Kristyl Smith, 9 Ella Brown, 10 Georgia Miller, 11 Courtney Hancock, 12 Rebecca Creedy, 13 Tiarrn Raymond, 14 Tara Coleman, 15 Amy Nurthen, 16 Danielle Mackenzie, 17 Lizzie Welborn, 18 Eliza Smith.