Fireworks on first finals day


There were plenty of fireworks on the first day of finals at the 2017 Aon Maadi Cup.

Perfect rowing conditions greeted athletes lining up hoping to snare a prestigious mtedal at New Zealand's largest rowing regatta.

An action-packed day of racing also saw two of the premier trophies awarded, the Springbok Shield and the Dawn Cup for the under-18 coxed quad.

A wrap of the day's highlights is below.

Boys under-18

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.

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.

Kings College earned a memorable double as they lived up to their name with a pair of regal performances to strike gold in the pair and quadruple coxed sculls.

Stroke James Hall and Daniel Williamson – who qualified quickest for the final –dominated the pair to stop the clock in 6:48.21 from St Andrews, who captured both minor medals with 6:51.44 and 6:53.57, respectively.

The performance of King’s College was perhaps more impressive when you consider the combination are still under-17s and they only first rowed together six months ago.

“My original partner dropped out of rowing at the beginning of the season,” explains Hall.



“Daniel was in another boat but the first time we came together it was a good row. We have a mutual respect for one another. We get on well but we are straight up with each other.”

Hall and Williamson then returned a little over three hours later to form two-fifths of the quadruple sculls crew – alongside Sam Cummins, Matt Caro and cox Alex Sutcliffe – to pull off a thrilling victory in a captivating final.

St Peters College established an early lead only for King’s College to assume control in the third quarter. Christ’s College then also loomed as a serious danger before the Aucklander’s dug into their reserves to take victory for a third of a length in 6:28.08 from St Peter’s. Christ’s faded but clung on to grab third in 6:30.95.

Williamson was “ecstatic” to claim a second gold and insists their success has come down to several factors.

“We’ve spent good time together, we train hard and worked hard on our technique,” adds Williamson, who is also in action for King’s College tomorrow in the under-17 four and quad finals.

Christchurch Boys High enjoyed a cracking first finals day at the Aon Maadi Cup which included an electrifying half-a-length victory over Hamilton Boys High in the novice eights final. Hamilton took early command of the race but slowly Christchurch - ably coxed by Henry Shaw - loomed into contention with a superior final 500m ultimately proving decisive.

Christchurch crossed the line in 6:17.95 – 1.55 clear of Hamilton with Auckland Grammar snagging bronze in 6:30.01.

Spectators at an overcast Lake Karapiro were treated to a thriller in the novice double sculls final as Hamilton Boys High School (7:07.52) held off a late charge by cross-town rivals St John’s College (Hamilton).

The Hamilton Boys combination of stroke Max Wilson and Heath MacEwan established an early control and for much of the race held an advantage in excess of a length.

However, Mitchell Evans and Finn Hamill of St John’s refused to concede defeat and a blistering late charge propelled them to within just 0.34 of the gold medallists.

Completing the top three were Timaru Boys High School (7:11.99).

Boys under-17

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.”

His mum steered him down the track of rowing and on his Maadi Cup debut he delivered by striking gold. “It’s awesome, it’s still sinking in,” he says of his victory. ”I didn’t expect to do so well in my first Maadi.”

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.

Hamilton Boys High School were crowned eights champions with a dominant display. The North Island crew – coached by Bruce Holden and Don Baron – bossed the race from the outset and always kept nearest rivals Christ’s College at arm’s length. Just when the Christchurch based-school appeared poised to challenge, Hamilton responded to surge again in the final 250m to power to a decisive victory in 6:03.09. Christ’s, the fastest qualifiers for the final and 2015 champions, crossed the line second for silver in 6:05.90 with Christchurch Boys’ High School in bronze (6:10.28).

The juggernaut that is the Jenkins brothers – Elliot and Finn – proved unstoppable to pulverise the opposition in the double sculls final. The twins from Whakatane High School – who have enjoyed so much past success at Maadi Cup – claimed an emphatic success by more than seven-and-half seconds to record 6:47.44.

Macleans College scooped silver in 6:55.18 with Wellington College in bronze (6:57.37) but the performance was all about the Jenkins brothers.

Finn said of the victory: “We are stoked. We had a firm place from the start, Elliot told me what he wanted to do and we executed it well.

“I think we’ve peaked better than we ever had. We’ve had a good programme and built well since the national champs back in February.” Finn returns tomorrow to compete in the final of the under-18 double. While Elliot also competes in the under-18 single.

Under-16

A little over 40 minutes after King’s College toasted victory in the under-18 men’s pair the Auckland-based school were top of the podium once more in the quadruple sculls event. The North Island champions had qualified quickest for the final and proved top dogs in the medal race to cross the line in 6:34.33 more than a second-and-a-half clear of Marlborough Boys College, the silver medallists. Rounding out the medal picture were Otago Boys High School (6:36.22) in bronze.

The coxed four final served up, arguably, one of the races of the day as Hamilton Boys High School edged a titanic battle from St Andrews College by just 0.26.

The Hamilton Boys’ crew of William Thompson, Luke Taylor, Ali Henderson, Ben Blaikie and cox Jakeb Stent held a half-a-length advantage from their South Island rivals at halfway before St Andrews gradually inched closer into contention.

Entering the final 200m only a half a canvas separated the pair only for Hamilton to just repel their rivals in a time of 6:47.41. The Hamilton Boys B crew took out the bronze in a time 6:59.13.

Under-15

Hamilton Boys High School retained their long-held grip on the eights title but were given an almighty scare courtesy of a tenacious Auckland Grammar crew.

The men from the Waikato held the advantage from virtually the first stroke only for Auckland to produce a late charge for the line. Hamilton responded to the threat in the final 200m to push on and claim a narrowl win by just 0.89 in 6:26:08. St Paul’s Collegiate who were in strong contention for the first 1500m claimed bronze in 6:30.74.

In a spellbinding final of the double sculls St Paul’s Collegiate felled the powerful South Island challenge courtesy of a powerful surge over the final 500m. In an absorbing battle, Southland Boys High took early control before in the mid-section John McGlashan College seized the initiative. However, stroke Isaac West and Sam Harcourt unleashed a terrific late burst to stop the clock in 7:29.91 for a memorable win. John McGlashan (7:31.26) grabbed silver with John Paul College denying early leaders Southland Boys a medal with a powerful sprint earning bronze in 7:31.82.

Sacred Heart College (Auckland) were imperious en route to a convincing victory in the lightweight coxed four final. Wellington College burst to the front to take an early advantage, but the by the second quarter the Sacred Heart crew of – Sean Paget, Nathan Collins, Daniel McGill, Tim Edwards and cox Jack Higgins established control of the race.

For the remainder of the race Sacred Heart gave an impressive demonstration of their superiority to grab gold in 6:50.99 with Wellington College a distant second in 6:55:96. In the battle for bronze an explosive late charge from Christ’s College (7:02.09) earned them bottom spot on the podium from Timaru Boys High School (7:03.29).

Girls under-18 and under-17

St Paul’s Collegiate struck a blow for the small schools to clinch their maiden Dawn Cup victory with a dazzling display to conclude a mouthwatering first finals day at the 2017 Aon Maadi Cup.

The Hamilton-based school, who only have approximately 150 female students to draw from, 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: “Its 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.”

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.

Christchurch Girls’ High School destroyed the opposition to claim one of the most comprehensive wins of the day in the under-18 women’s pair. The combination of stroke Laura Pinnell and Grace Loveridge proved superior was the outset quickly establishing a rhythm which would power the duo to victory by more than six-and-a-half seconds.

The Christchurch Girls’ duo stopped the clock in 7:39.09 to claim victory ahead of Diocesan School for Girls with St Paul’s Collegiate earning bronze in 7:48.23.

Pinnell, who was inspired to row through her father, Mike Pinnell, a former New Zealand junior rower, said: “I’ve been in the pair for two years and after blowing out last year, it makes this all the more rewarding.

“I’ve been really lucky to race with Grace, she’s probably one of the best rowers in the country and I’m definitely the lucky one in the combo.”

Fastest qualifiers Rangi Ruru Girls’ School always looked a class apart in the novice eight under-18 final and so it proved as the Christchurch-based school comfortably retained their crown from 12 months ago.

With Hillary Royds at cox, Rangi Ruru were always in control crossing the line in 7:17.24 – 3.95 clear of Epson Girls Grammar in silver with Waikato Diocesan, the 2015 gold medallists, this time having to settle for bronze in 7:24.13.

The pre-penultimate final of the day – the under-18 novice double sculls final provided an absolute gem as Rotorua Lakes High School edged a thriller from Wanganui Collegiate by just 0.35. For much of the race the two crews matched each other stroke for stroke as Georgia Kerins and Grace Hogan of Wanganui and the Rotorua combination of Tegan and Ella Fookes desperately hunted victory.

At the end of a gripping 2000m it was the Fookes’ pair who finished the stronger to shade an absorbing battle in 7:53.74 with Westlake Girls a distant third in 8:03.22.

The South Island schools maintained their stranglehold on the girls under-17 coxed four event as Rangi Ruru Girls School – Alice Sproat, Isabella Carter, Sophie McCartin, Izzie Evans and cox Amber Williams – proved too strong for allcomers with an assured display.

The crew of Alice Sproat, Isabella Carter, Sophie McCartin, Izzie Evans and cox Amber Williams stopped the clock in 7:37.73 to finish comfortably ahead of St Peter’s School (7:40.21) who shaded silver by 0.19 from Columba College.

St Peter’s School denied Nelson College for Girls a hat-trick of titles in the under-17 coxed quad sculls final with an assured display to snag gold. The upper South Island school were once again scenting success in an event they’ve recently dominated, but St Peters boast a formidable reputation in sculling and their crew of Caitlin Burns, Caroline Sherratt, Morgan Blind, Kaylin Wren and cox Lauren Gibb would not be denied completing the 2000m distance in 7:20.32.

On this occasion, Nelson College for Girls (7:23.01) had to settle for silver with Hauraki Plains College in 7:26.46 claiming the final spot on the dais.

Girls under-16

Epsom Girls Grammar prevailed by just 0.12 from a brave Wanganui Collegiate crew in a barnstorming final of the girls’ eights. In a pulsating encounter Wanganui – the fastest qualifiers for the final - held a slight advantage for much of the race only for Epsom Girls competing from lane one to mount their attack to perfection and clinch victory by a whisker in 7:07.79. St Margarets College, who were also in contention for much of the race, were rewarded with bronze in a time of 7:09.01.

Ashburton College completed a hat-trick of gold medals in the single sculls as Mollie Gibson succeeded Veronica Wall, the 2015 and 2016 winner, as champion. Gibson executed a patient row for the first half of the race before surging to the front in the third 500m to finish more than three seconds clear of her nearest pursuer Shakira Mirfin (Southland Girls). Phoebe Trolove (Craighead Diocesan) rounded out the top three in 8:23.53

Gibson, who coincidentally is coached by Wall’s father, Justin, said of her triumph: “It’s pretty awesome. It is really cool that Ashburton is going so well. I just hoped to finish top three and try my best.” Gibson returns to the regatta with three further finals tomorrow.

Girls under-15

The sheer magic of the Aon Maadi Cup was perfectly encapsulated in the A final of the quadruple sculls as Westlake Girls High School claimed a stunning and unexpected victory from lane one. The slowest of the eight crews to advance to the medal race, defied their ranking as the crew of Nyla Bunyan, Devon Thorpe, Arabella Hope, Sylvia Leadley and cox Ciara Thomas romped to gold in 7:39:30 to defeat pre-event favourites Tauranga Girls College (7:41.26) from Villa Maria College (7:42:09) in bronze.

Westlake Girls enjoyed more success in the lightweight four. However, unlike their shock success in the quadruple sculls final victory in the lightweight event was much less of a surprise. Westlake – comprising Georgia Gray, Holly Gray, Sophie Egnot-Johnson, Mica Erdmann and cox Janae Squire - were never headed and staved off a bold challenge from Cambridge High School by a margin of 4.17 in 7:41.81. Craighead Diocesan proved the best of the rest to win bronze in 7:48.79.

Waikato Diocesan clinched back-to-back coxed four titles with a resounding victory in the coxed four final. The crew of Georgia Clapcott, Sophie Reeves, Rosanna Bedford, Mia Coventry and cox Phillipa Wilson established early control of the race and it was an advantage they did not relinquish as they powered to success in a swift 7:27.74.

In a tight scramble for silver St Margarets College in 7:31.34 edged Rangi Ruru College by 0.97.