Using hockey sticks instead of paddles is not your conventional way to train for a dragon boating competition.
But that was the case for the St Dominic's College paddlers, who only had four sessions on the water before they raced towards the podium in the recent Auckland regional secondary school dragon boat championships.
Teacher Robynne Andrews said the newly formed team trained sitting on chairs in the school's hall using hockey sticks to imitate paddling. The Auckland Dragon Boat Association stepped in to supply the team with oars for the races.
"I guess you could say it was innovative land-based training. The bad weather meant they couldn't train on the water as planned," Andrews said. "Going over the finish line with a placement in every race and not being back of the field is a tough ask for first timers on the water."
The team, made up of Year 11 and 12 students, placed in all races they entered. They came first in the 200m girls' plate final (1.04) and second in the 500m bowl final (2.37.02).
They took a first and second in two 500m heats as well as two third placements in two 200m heats.
Overall, St Dominic's ranked eighth out of the 18 girls' teams.
"We gave our best first impression by coming first in our first ever race," student captain and head girl Lynette Idio said. "The hard work and disciplined manner of every girl in the water made St Dom's stand out. Keep on paddling, my Dominican warrior sisters!"
Andrews, also a competitive dragon boat paddler, said the team was fortunate to be guided by the Auckland Dragon Boat Association's 2015 coach of the year Leslie Ash. She was also the St Dominic's team sweeper on race day.
The competition was a chance for the St Dominic's students to compete with other Auckland Catholic girls' schools, including Baradene and Marist colleges, Andrews said.
"We are the only Catholic girls' school based in west Auckland so it was good for us to meet with other Catholic schools," Andrews said.
Teachers Betsy Maloni and Stephanie Van Der Putten helped with training.
The secondary schools' championship, held at Lake Pupuke in Takapuna, saw more than 35 teams from the Auckland region battle it over 200m and 500m courses in mixed and girls' junior divisions.
West Auckland's Rutherford and Waitakere colleges also competed. More than 2000 supporters and spectators attended on the day.
The St Dominic's team is looking for west Auckland businesses willing to help with sponsorship to purchase paddles for next season's competition. Phone Rachel Bennett at St Dominic's College on 09-839-0380 if you can help.