Story courtesy of College Sport Media
It was a successful regatta for Wellington schools at last week’s Maadi Cup New Zealand Secondary School Rowing Championships on Lake Karapiro, near Cambridge.
Wellington crews won three golds in the 52-event regatta, featuring over 2,000 of the leading athletes from throughout the country.
Wellington College won the Boys U15 Coxed Quad Sculls, Wellington Girls’ College won the U17 Coxless Pairs and Wellington East Girls’ College won the U18 Girls Double Sculls.
Wellington East’s winning pair, Ava Johnston and Kate Barham were thrilled with their gold on the penultimate day on Friday.
After earlier winning their heat and semi-final, they led the final from start to finish and won by 3 seconds to second placed St Peter’s School and third placed Wakatipu High School.
The gold medal race on Friday panned out as planned. “We have a race plan that we usually follow,” said Kate. “And that is from the very beginning to make a fast start and try and get in front and hold it, because we know we work best in that position.”
“Our start is our strength,” said Ava, “we like to get out in front and keep pushing hard.”
“To win was always our goal,” said Ava, “so that is what we have been training and aiming for this whole rowing season. We had won the North Island U18 Championships a fortnight ago, beating the same St Peter’s crew in the final.”
But nothing is guaranteed. “We lined up in the final hoping we could pull it off, but unsure of what our competitors could do.”
The pair has been training together since year 9. “Our double has always been our main event that we have focused on, so it was definitely exciting to finally get that gold, “Ava continued.
In previous Maadi Cups they won silver in the U16s Double Sculls in 2021 and bronze in the U18s Pairs in 2022.
The next day, Ava and Kate teamed up with two-year 11s – both novices – Ella Wellington and Olive Squire, and year 12 cox Marama Wallace, to claim bronze in the U18 Coxed Quad Sculls
After winning their heat, the final of this event was on Saturday, and was one of the most hard fought and tight medal races of the regatta.
Less than three seconds separated winners Columba College (Dunedin), Whanganui Collegiate, Wellington East and Glendowie College (Auckland). Wellington East won the bronze by 0.07s.
Said Ava: “That last 250m of that final was just a killer. Your brains and your body just enter into this space where you are basically numb to the pain and you just go for it. It was as hard as it gets, and we didn’t really know where we sat when we crossed the line.”
“Said Kate: “We were just waiting patiently because we didn’t know the result, and we didn’t want to celebrate too early in case we missed out on a medal.”
It was neck-and-neck throughout the race from start to finish.
Explained Kate: We are supposed to have our heads in the boat the whole time, but yes it gets a bit tempting to look over at the other boats! It was our last race of our school season, so we just wanted to keep pushing and give it absolutely everything, and we were rewarded when we came up in third.”
Added Ava: “And it was exciting to go out in a new boat and with a new combination, and there wasn’t too much expectation around it and so that took some of the pressure off and made it a fun race to go out and do.”
Kate was also in a third event, finishing a highly credible fifth in the A Final of the U18 Single Sculls.
“I was really happy with that, as I only started doing the singles this season, with the doubles being my main focus. It is mentally more challenging, just because having a partner in there with you, you bounce off each other and that momentum swings between the two of you. In the single, thoughts of wanting to give up are more frequent, but you just have to keep powering through.”
Ava has been managing a sore back this summer, so didn’t race in the singles.
Another crew from Wellington East at Maadi was the U15 Octuple Sculls. That coxed crew of eight rowers all sculling (with two oars, as opposed to the more traditional eights with one oar each) were third in their heat, won their repechage and finished eighth in their A final.
Kate and Ava and others row for the Star Boating Club, which, given Wellington’s weather, is often difficult and much of their training is indoors.
A winning crew is not without huge support behind the scenes.
Ava and Kate thanked their coach, Nathan Wallace. “He has trained us over the past four years and has selflessly poured hours and hours of his time and energy into our rowing. He truly is spectacular and is what makes rowing at both Star and for WEGC so successful and special.”
Plus the support of families throughout the week of Maadi and at other regattas, who ensure they are organised and well fed and hydrated.
The rowing season finishes now, but Ava and Kate will continue to train hard in the off-season and hope to continue their liaison post school and into next summer and beyond.
Their goal for next season is to make the podium in the Senior Double Sculls and to keep improving together and individually.
Article added: Wednesday 05 April 2023
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