Over the last week, 45 Westlake rowers competed against the very best in the country at the Aon Maadi Cup, the National Secondary Schools Rowing Championships. Held at Lake Ruataniwha in the stunning setting of Twizel. The quality and depth of talent on show this year was of the highest calibre. Our Westlake squad was up against some of the best secondary school rowers in the world.
Right from the first race on Monday, it was evident how intense the competition was going to be this year. The conditions proved challenging, with the dry mountain air making racing a real test particularly for the North Island schools. However, by the end of racing on Tuesday the Westlake squad was fully acclimatised and the results were starting to show. Following the heats, repercharges, quarter-finals and semi-finals, the Westlake squad secured places in the A finals for the Under 15 Eight, Under 16 Four, Under 17 Eight, Under 17 Four, Under 18 Four and the pinnacle event, the Under 18 Eight. Westlake crews also qualified for B finals in the Under 15 Four, Under 15 Quad, Under 18 Lightweight Four and Under 18 Four.
After four days of fine weather and glassy water, the first day of finals brought with it some early wind, delaying the start of racing. Eventually the wind died down and Westlake got underway in great fashion with the Under 17 Eight contesting strongly in a very competitive field to finish in the Bronze medal position, less than a length behind St Kentigern College who took the gold. Unfortunately, due to the earlier delay compressing the race schedule, two of those boys then had to row straight back up to the start of the Under 16 Four. This crew was placed a very creditable 4th in New Zealand, though the boys were left wondering what might have been had they been able to take the extra rest that was scheduled before the delay.
The Under 15 Eight was the next crew to feature in an A final. This young crew battled hard against much larger opposition, eventually finishing 8th in New Zealand, which was a fantastic achievement in what was for many of them their first season of rowing. The last race of the first day of finals was the boys Under 18 Four which put the very best school boy rowers against each other in the second most prestigious race of the regatta, behind only the Maadi Cup itself. The young Westlake crew of Hugo Verdonk, Mathew Barry, Sam Jones, James Brake and Greg Scott, fought hard all the way to the line, finishing a creditable 4th against a top class field.
The final day of the regatta began with another delay, this time due to fog, which quickly cleared to reveal a stunning day with yet more glass-like water. Westlake began the day strongly again, with the Under 17 Four picking up the Bronze medal in one of the closest races of the day. Our crew was pipped for the silver medal by 0.1 seconds and trailed the gold medal winners by only just over a boat length. This performance bodes well for next season as these boys look to step up to the pinnacle Under 18 events.
In the final race of the regatta, the Under 18 Eight, the Westlake crew showed real courage by laying down to the rest of the field, leading through the first 500 metres. The young crew fought hard through the middle stanza of the race and were sitting within striking distance of a medal with 300m left to run. As the stroke rates of all crews increased in the final sprint to the line, the Westlake crew just got their bow out-nudged for the Bronze medal, finishing in 5th place less than two seconds behind 3rd. In such an intensely competitive field, a gutsy 5th In New Zealand was a very strong performance of which all the parents and coaches were extremely proud. While the result wasn’t what the boys were after, they graciously recognised the quality of their competition. There was no doubt that they had left everything they had out on the lake that afternoon.
Mention must also go to those crews who competed in B finals, with the Under 18 Lightweight Four placing 15th, the Under 18 B Four placing 11th, the Under 15 Quad placing 13th and the Under 15 Four placing 10th in New Zealand.
Congratulations to Mathew Barry who has gained a trial for the New Zealand Junior (U18) Team and to James Brake, Sam Jones, Jake Jones and Baxter Holgate-Simpson who have all gained trials for the North Island U18 Team.
And with that, the 2015-2016 season is over. After spending 10 months training up to 20 hours per week, the boys, parents and coaches are all looking forward to a well-earned break and a few sleep-ins!
For boys interested in trying rowing – the Learn to Row program will begin in early Term 2. This program is open to boys of all ages and no rowing experience is necessary. Please keep an eye on the daily notices at the start of next term for information on when/where to sign up.