The New Zealand Rowing under-23 and elite team trial list was issued last Sunday following the successful national rowing championships at Lake Ruataniwha.
With seven Southland rowers named, including Olympians Nathan Cohen, Jade Uru and Louise Ayling, Rowing Southland is pleased with the inclusion of two new triallists Kristen Froude and Mark O'Connor, who have benefited from the ILT Foundation winter training programme co-ordinated by Rowing Southland during their school years.
This year both progressed into the Southern Regional Performance Centre squad training in Christchurch on the back of several strong seasons with Waihopai Rowing Club. Over the last two years O'Connor has also been a part of strong Otago University eights which have competed in China, Taiwan and Russia.
O'Connor said he was excited and happy to have obtained the trial and to get the opportunity to measure himself against the best.
Froude is another product of the James Hargest College rowing production line and has known only gold in her four years in the sport, taking four gold medals in each of the two previous national championships, including a premier title last week with the Southern RPC eight.
One late surprise inclusion, none more surprised than herself, is Waihopai's Lisa Owen. A natural lightweight rower, Owen fits within the 59kg category with club mate Ayling and was not listed in the initial trial list of six lightweight women.
Owen's callup comes on the back of three under-22 age-group medals and making the final in the women's championship lightweight single at last week's national champions.
She only began packing her bags for the trial on Wednesday after the late callup and was excited to be going.
"I am looking forward to what the week brings. I'm ready to give it heaps on the water and challenge the athletes I raced at nationals" she said.
The trials commence today though all athletes were required to assemble at the high performance centre at Lake Karapiro last night for a briefing. The trials will start with a 2km rowing ergometer test today for each individual.
Known best by its representation in the original rowing documentary Pieces of Eight about the 1984 Olympic men's eight, the 2km erg test is known as "the infamous six minutes of pain". For all the southern triallists, Cohen, Uru, Genevieve Behrent, O'Connor, Froude, Owen and Invercargill Rowing Club's other representative rower Hayden Cohen, attaining a good erg test score at the start of the trial (better or as close to their personal bests as possible) will set the tone for the remainder of the trial.
Following the erg test, the athletes will assemble at the Rowing NZ high performance centre each day to be included (or excluded) from daily seat racing in the various selection boats over one or more sessions a day as chosen by the high performance selectors. Each session can include six or more races over the course of two or more hours.
While Behrent and Hayden Cohen still fall within the under-23 age-group bracket, their inclusion in this season's elite squad signals that the selectors wish to see such athletes make the step-up, and in Behrent's case, return to the elite ranks.
Cohen was a world under-23 champion last year in the double and Behrent a twice-silver medallist in the under-23 world championship eight event. Both will be hoping for places in boats of their favoured sculling discipline.
For the next generation of elite rowers, this weekend's South Island secondary school championships at Lake Ruataniwha come hot on the heels of the national championships for some. With restricted entry due to the enormous number of school rowers in the sport and limited time in which to race over the weekend, Southland Girls High School and James Hargest College have had to carefully consider which age-group rowers compete in and even which rowers get to compete in those crews.
Both schools will feature heavily in the under-16 events with both Invercargill and Waihopai-based athletes being entered for their schools across all boats.
SGHS, JHC and Southland Boys High will be sending crews to the Maadi Cup national secondary school championships at Lake Karapiro in two weeks and this weekend will see whether they can take the mantle of top in the South Island.
Aparima College will be the newcomer after the students featured in novice events for Riverton Rowing Club at the South Island club championships last month.
- The Southland Times