THERE was plenty of medal success for Stratford Boat Club’s J14 and J15 squads at Sunday’s South of England Indoor Rowing Championships at White Horse Leisure Centre in Abingdon.
The first event up was the WJ14 individual four-minute event in which Stratford had seven competitors. Anne Mynors, Ruby Howells, Lucy Browne, Freya Watts and Harriet Holmes all put in fantastic performances with lots of personal bests between them and some high-placed finishes, just outside the medals.
Despite carrying a slight injury, Bella Chappelhow managed to complete her four-minute challenge very strongly to secure the silver medal and a bronze medal was picked up by Fleur Griffiths who set a personal best in the process.
Next up were J14 boys Toby Sartain, Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock who were also competing over the four-minute category. All of the boys set themselves personal bests which were significantly further than they had managed before and Wilcock was the highest finisher with fifth place.
The individual events continued with J15s Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone and Will Clarke taking to the arena for their respective five-minute races. Pre-race nerves quickly faded as the cheering spectators helped push everyone to their best, with the close, determined racing again smashing personal bests.
In Sartain’s race group, just 15 metres separated first and sixth place, with Sartain finishing strongly in fifth. Meanwhile, in the other band Elstone quickly gained a commanding lead which she steadily increased to the finish to win her gold medal in a new event record distance of 1,353m.
In the boys’ event, Clarke quickly established his position, keeping with the head of the field. Determined to finish strongly towards the end of the race, he widened the gap with those challenging him to secure a bronze medal.
Then it was time for the relays with the J14 boys and girls all in action again. Wilcock, Toby Sartain and Beattie all showed huge amounts of grit and determination to complete the 2km race, despite being beaten by some boys who were considerably bigger than Stratford’s athletes.
The girls split into two teams with Browne, Holmes and Mynors teaming up to race first. Again they put in everything they had to keep within touching distance of the medals but they were overhauled, competing against a number of teams with four athletes in each.
Powering to gold
Chappelhow, Griffiths, Watts and late substitute Ruby Howells competed as the other team. They had fast changeovers and managed to maintain the same pace throughout to take the gold medal – just 0.4 seconds ahead of silver in a race which came down to just the last three strokes.
Wilcock and Beattie then teamed up with Clarke and Conar Aitchison to compete in the J15 3km relay. Facing larger competition, they quickly settled into third place and with their quick changeovers and teamwork maintained this to the finish for their places on the podium and bronze medals.
Watts showed great spirit and character to team up with three girls from local rivals Evesham Rowing Club to compete in their WJ15 relay. They were not quite quick enough to feature in the medals, but Watts put in another good performance to help them out.
In the final race of the day Amelie Sartain, Elstone, Chappelhow and Griffiths teamed up to race in the WJ15 3km relay which also came down to the final few strokes. The Stratford girls really dug in and once again came out on top.
J14 coach Abi Terry said: “It was a brilliant day’s racing and Stratford finished the day with three gold, one silver and three bronze medals.”
J15 coach Trevor Tiller added: “It was great to see all the Stratford athletes really pushing themselves to the limits, not only for themselves but also their team-mates.”
Whilst the J14 and J15 squads were in Abingdon, the elite men’s senior squad and J17/18 and J16 squads went to the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham for an arduous training day on the multi-lane course.