Rowing: Small school strikes gold at Maadi Cup

Grace Wilson (bow) and Veronica Wall from Ashburton College celebrate thier victory in the U18 double final. Photo / Steve McArthur
Grace Wilson (bow) and Veronica Wall from Ashburton College celebrate thier victory in the U18 double final. Photo / Steve McArthur

St Paul's Collegiate struck a blow for the small schools on a busy first day of finals at the 2017 Maadi Cup.

The Hamilton-based school, who only have approximately 150 female students to draw from, clinched their maiden Dawn Cup victory with a dazzling display. They were rewarded for an aggressive and fully-committed display to cross the line first in the coxed four event in 7:15.52, defeating silver medallists Nelson School for Girls by an impressive 3.40 seconds.

Putting up a stout defence of their title Diocesan School for Girls wound up in bronze in 6:20.07 but today was all about the performance of stroke Grace Watson, Kate Littlejohn, Olivia Warlow, Jasmine Fountaine and cox Victoria Chanwai.

Watson, who is only a second season rower and a New Zealand Secondary Schools netball representative, said in the wake of winning: "It's unexplainable. It's amazing. We just wanted to do the best we could, we knew we had a chance if we pulled off the best performance of our life and I think it's safe to say we did."

St Andrews College claimed their first Springbok Shield success for 34 years to provide a rousing finale to the boys' action on first finals day at the 2017 Aon Maadi Cup.

The Christchurch-based team of Ben Taylor, Zackary Rumble, Mitchell White, Thomas Russel and cox Tom Flavill lived up to their pre-race billing as overwhelming favourites to produce an imperious performance and maintain a stunning three-year unbeaten run as a crew in the coxed quad.

Bursting out to a full-length lead after just 250m it was then a demonstration as St Andrews produced one of the all-time great Springbok Shield performances to win by a huge margin of more than seven-and-a-half seconds in 6:33.82.

For stroke Ben Taylor it was an unforgettable moment after his father, Andrew, featured in the previous St Andrews Springbok Shield-winning crew in 1983.

"It was pretty big for me and definitely emotional," said Ben.

"We were pleased with the heats and we just wanted to back that up and put in a performance. We have been together for fourth seasons and we have worked hard for this."

In a tight scrap for silver, Westlake Boys (6:41.57) edged St Kentigern's College in the all Auckland battle by 0.93 to complete the podium positions.

With her outstanding haul of four gold medals at the 2016 Maadi Cup Veronica Wall was the star of the show 12 months ago and the Ashburton College once more excelled to claiming double gold on first finals day of the 2017 edition.

Wall, who made history last year by claiming an unprecedented under-16, under-17 and under-18 single sculls treble plus coxed four gold, started her day by winning the under-18 double sculls alongside Grace Wilson.

The gold medal-winning duo were prepared to play the waiting game before powering past St Peter's School with 300m remaining to clinch a comfortable win in 7:29.44. St Peter's had the consolation of silver in 7:33.67 with Tauranga Girls third (7:38.88).

Wall later completed her golden double by securing a routine victory in the under-17 single sculls by a monster margin of more than nine seconds. For the first half of the race Kathryn Glen of Villa Maria College bravely challenged, before Wall, powered by her long rhythmic stroke, eased clear to win 8:09:23. Glen earned the consolation of silver with bronze bagged by Andrea Fick of Westlake Girls (8:23.62).

"It's been a really good day," said Wall at the halfway stage of her quest to win four medals. "It was definitely nerve-wracking today. My double partner, Grace, and I have been racing since we were novices and we really wanted to go out there and row well.

"There was some pressure because my name is out there, but I'm comfortable with who I am and what I do." Wall returns tomorrow to compete in the finals of the under-18 single and under-18 quad.

Gus Olifers took pride of place as the winner of the opening final - the boys under-17 single sculls - at the 2017 Aon Maadi Cup. The Trident High School student produced a dominate display as he grabbed control of the race from halfway to claim a race win for a victory margin of 1.76 in 7:48.06.

It was an impressive performance by the Matt Hill and Graham Watt coached athlete out of the powerful Whakatane stable of school rowing, who only took up the sport two years ago because "I was a bit unfit and needed to do a sport."

In a titanic tussle of silver Manawa McLaughlin of New Plymouth Boys High in 7:49.82 edged Fergus Ritchie (Lindisfarne College) by 0.34.

Saturday marks the final day of racing. The six-day regatta will conclude with the two premier events - the Maadi Cup and the Levin Jubilee Cup for the under-18 coxed eights.

Racing can be viewed live at maadi.co.nz, and results, schedule and start lists can be found at rowit.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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