Region's crews boast plenty of title contenders

SARAH HAMILTON
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2013

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Made up of 2030 competitors, 1431 crews, 121 schools and with 48 gold medals on offer, the 2013 national secondary schools rowing championships, or Maadi Cup, at Lake Karapiro this week is the largest sports event in the southern hemisphere.

Participation levels this week are at a seven-year high.

The Maadi Cup itself is the 65-year-old prize presented to the winning under-18 boys' eight and this year will be the first year a Southland Rowing Association affiliated school will compete in the sister event, the Levin Jubilee Cup, for the girls' under-18 eight.

It is no surprise then that this entry signals one of the largest Southland school contingents to attend the Maadi Cup in recent times. James Hargest College has been the dominant southern school since Invercargill Rowing Club's Nathan Cohen began his singles-winning phenomenon in the then under-19 single in 2003, a feat repeated only twice since by Waihopai-based JHC students Mark O'Connor in 2008 and Ollie Behrent in 2010. This year's southern entries will again include a James Hargest student in the under-18 single and many more across the four age-groups and disciplines therein.

Here are a few southern crews and how their chances stack up this week.

The Legacy

U18 Boys Single - Guy Redpath

Although the James Hargest College student did not feature in the final of the South Island secondary schools (SISS) championships in Twizel three weekends ago, the 17-year-old casts an imposing figure in his red and gold sashed rowsuit and still managed to come away with gold in the under-18 double with Scott Jones. Although troubled by a rib injury of late, Redpath will look to make his way through a six-heat singles event but will have to put the rib to the test in quarterfinals and semifinals, if not also a repechage, just to make it the final. Redpath has been training for the last two seasons under John O'Connor's programme at the Waihopai Rowing Club and can be sure that, all going to plan and the injury coming right, he has the goods to get to the final and give himself the opportunity to claim a medal in true James Hargest style.

Enthusiasm Plus

James Hargest College U16 Boys Eight

The Ian Hamilton-coached under-16 crew have been the jokers of the Oreti River this season, taking to the river on foot last weekend when low tide and low flow presented a walkable path across the silted up waterway. But the Invercargill Rowing Club-based rowers are also the jokers for their wildcard status and proved that point at the SISS with a gritty third placing in the under-16 eight ahead of highly touted schools Christ's College and St Bedes. Rowan Haveron, Dylan Milford, Thomas Elder, Scott Radka, Blake Green, Riley Chilton, Scott Pulley, Brodie Crooks along with coxswain Tate Mulligan will descend on Lake Karapiro in a whirlwind of anticipation as the group look to pull off the ultimate trick in the hope of medalling on New Zealand secondary schools rowing's centre stage.

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Not for School but for Life

SGHS Girls U18 Eight

From an under-16 doubles win kick-start a few years ago to earning three medals at last year's Maadi Cup, Southland Girls' High School has built itself as a contender at all levels. This year will be the culmination of the effort of a group of 10 girls over the last few seasons. Olivia MacDonald, Georgia Yaxley, Katie Moffat, Amy Jenkins, Penelope Barnsdale, Brooke Shepherd, Georgia Gentle, Annabel Ronald and coxin Kate Duthie will be charting new territory when they compete for the school in the under-18 girls' eight for the Levin Jubilee Cup. The elder statesmen of rowing can recall when female rowers were first accepted into clubs and since then, only one Southland Girls' under-17 eight is recalled to have competed and won a medal at the Maadi Cup. The course the South Island silver medallists take through the two-heat, nine-crew event will depend on how close they sit to SISS frontrunners and current NZ schools champions, St Margaret's College, and North Island champions Waikato Diocesan. How the girls fare after two long days of heats racing today and tomorrow before they combine in the boat to race the heat will also be a factor in their progression.

The Return of the Boys'

U17 Boys Single and Double - Tim Yaxley & Adam Carter

An absolute grafter, Tim Yaxley has not taken a backward step since taking to the sport of rowing from his earliest days amongst the oars and skiffs at Waihopai Rowing Club. The accolades may not have poured in over the first couple of years while hampered by a hip injury but Yaxley put in a concerted effort over the last winter after having surgery and is beginning to reap the rewards. In taking bronze in the SISS under-17 boys' single and racing well above his age-bracket to fourth place in the under-18 single event, as well as winning gold in the under-17 double with Southland Boys' High School rowing partner Adam Carter, Yaxley will be hoping to get through the hardest progression system in New Zealand rowing to make it through to finals in the same three events. Carter also has an outside chance in the under-17 single after winning the B final at SISS.

Out of the Blue

Wakatipu Boys' U15 and U16 Squad

Anyone who hadn't been watching the Wakatipu Rowing Club's rise over the last two seasons may say that James Ramsay, Hayden Bewley, Jacob Flanagan, Dylan O'Conner and coxin Ben Wales were the surprise package to come out of the Lake Hayes-based club at the recent SISS but those who have seen the blue and gold colours proliferate of late will know otherwise. Bewley and Flanagan were standouts at the SISS, coming away with a trifecta of medals - gold in the under-16 quad, silver in the under-15 quad and bronze in the under-15 four. The nationals are another step up for the crew and under-15 crewmates Joseph Swale and Nick Foley, which if they handle well, will definitely be successful for the group.

Trifecta of Success

Boys' Under-16 Double - WAKA, SBHS, JHC

In one of the most competitive levels of racing at the regatta, Southland schools will field a healthy number of crews in the under-16 boys' double event, all of which have the potential to take the gold medal after making up the top three under-16 doubles at SISS. At the Lake Ruataniwha schools regatta, James Hargest College's under-16 double of Rowan Haveron and Dylan Milford grabbed the gold, Wakatipu's James Ramsey and Dylan O'Connor the silver and Josh Hayes and Cameron Perkins took the bronze medal for Southland Boys' High School. With eight heats on the first day of racing all of these crews will have to be on the top of their games just to get through the cut-throat progression which sees the last crew in each heat eliminated and only two crews in the repechages then progressing through quarterfinals and semifinals to reach the A and B finals. Otherwise it is minor finals and all hope for a medal could be lost after day two.

A Tale Of Two Cities

U16 SGHS Girls Squads

Two groups of Southland Girls' High under-16 rowers have been toiling away on the Oreti River over the last year using each other as yardsticks for success. Invercargill Rowing Club's group of Sarah Dalzell, Moesha Tupoutoa, Hannah McCloy, Meg Griffin and coxin Laura Murphy were the southern leaders in their under-15 age bracket last year but, after a lacklustre start to the season, will be looking to regain the spark that saw them ranked No 1 heading into the season. Coming to the fore this year and also carrying the under-16 legacy on their shoulders are Waihopai-based Kerri-Ann Sinclair, Michaela Townshend, Rianna Maxwell, Georgia Smith and coxin Eden Cross after taking silver at SISS in the under-16 quad as well as bronze for Townshend in the single. The under-16 double will also be a focus for Sinclair and Townshend, who were yet to find their top-end speed in finishing fourth at SISS.These two may put themselves in contention by sheer determination and their sharpening up over the last two weeks.

In their first time away at the Maadi Cup and with two of the girls still classified as novice rowers, anything they achieve this week will be a bonus to an already excellent season. For the Invercargill-based girls, this week may be the spark that keeps them in the sport for next season, knowing that the hard work is worth it to compete at this level.

New Gold

Wakatipu Boys U18 Novice Four

Also surfacing on Lake Hayes is a group of latter-come-rowers who do not lack for motivation on the back of the large group coming through the Wakatipu club. Age group coaches Annabel Ritchie and Mike Westenra will tell you that Wakatipu High School is the next big thing to hit secondary school rowing and the under-18 boys are just the beginning of what the coaches' hope is the realisation of a new era with almost one-in-10 students at Wakatipu High School now participating in rowing. George Dennison, Latham Jones, Reid Long, Logan Boyd and award-winning coxin Henry Mathews are current South Island under-18 novice four champions and were also bronze medal winners in the under-18 four glamour event. These four are the current novice four national club champions and will look to hold the double of school and club titles when they compete in the novice under-18 four at Lake Karapiro. They will also try to foot it in the under-18 four against crews who may have been rowing for more than five years to their one year. The crew is well seasoned in tough weeks after being part of a national club championship novice eight destined for success only to fall foul in the final via a gear breakage that saw their eight aspirations disappear. The group will be hungry for success across all of their under-18 and novice events this week.

- The Southland Times

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