The sun came up and the heavens opened on the West Midlands Junior Championships held in Stourport-on-Severn at the weekend. Conditions where challenging for all as competitors arrived to a quagmire more usually associated with the festival season, the headline act this time being the Stratford upon Avon Boat Club junior squad! The Championships are held over 1800m of the River Severn which, although wide, presents a navigation challenge for coxswains and steersman to stay in the stream and maximise the speed of their crew. At stake was selection to represent the region at the Junior Inter-Regional Regatta held in April.
The J16 squad fielded two crews in the competition. First up in the morning sun was Fred Tyler who romped home in his single scull to take gold and pick up the first West Midlands squad place for the Club. Next to go was the coxless quadruple scull of Alice Baines, Mili Wilcock, Nixie Brunt and Maiya James who whilst pushing on were unable to repeat the form seen in the Stourport Winter Head and collected a Silver medal. Commented Steve Wellstead, Junior Co-ordinator and J16 coach, “This was enough for them to secure selection to represent the West Midlands in a composite eight with Evesham Rowing Club.”
The first division saw the J15 squad competing in the doubles’ event with Amelie Sartain and Sophie Elstone winning silver just four seconds shy of regional qualification after a long fought race. The crews of Elisabeth Edwards and Martha Usselmann and Abbey Meggeson and Emma Harrison finishing closely down the field in seventh and twelfth positions respectively. In the midday division Harriet Hodgson in her first outing in the single event, rowed finely to a confident finish in fifth place against the region’s finest. She is now looking forward to building on this experience during the forthcoming season. The final division saw the two quads compete well with the boat of Julia Zampronio Gurden (cox), Amelie Sartain, Sophie Elstone, Martha Usselmann and Sienna Rawlings finish slightly ahead that of Mary Walton (cox), Abbey Meggeson, Harriet Hodgson, Emma Harrison and Elisabeth Edwards. Said Trevor Tiller, J15 squad coach, ”Weather aside, a fine day’s outing and good spirits all round!”
First up for the J14 squad were the coxed quads. The girls’ crew of Harriet Holmes, Lucy Browne, Honour Keil, Fleur Griffiths and cox Owen Perkins put in a strong performance to see them take their place in the West Midlands squad. The mixed crew that raced in the open event had opposition from the Royal Grammar School Worcester and consisted of Will Beattie, Tomi Wilcock, Ruby Howells, Bella Chappelhow and cox Toby Sartain put in a very strong race and despite an equipment issue near the end of the race still managed to beat Royal Grammar School Worcester by twenty three seconds. This meant that this crew was also selected for the West Midlands squad.
Next up were the doubles’ crews with three combinations competing. Tomi Wilcock and Will Beattie teamed up together and with Beattie steering a fantastic racing line down the course: the boys managed to win their second gold medal of the day beating the nearest rivals from Worcester Rowing Club by eighteen seconds. Toby Sartain and Owen Perkins also teamed up together to race in the open doubles: they put in a fine effort to finish in fifth place. The girls’ double with a late substitute of Harriet Holmes to complete with Fleur Griffiths came away with the bronze medals following another very good row despite the girls not having trained in the double together before. The day finished with the singles and there were two girls competing here: Lucy Browne unfortunately sustained an injury at the beginning of the race and subsequently she was unable to finish. Freya Watts also competed very strongly and finished in a very respectable fourth place just eight seconds off the bronze medal. Said Abi Terry, J14 coach, “A brilliant effort by the J14 squad competing at this event for the first time and managing to secure ten seats in the West Midlands’ squad!”
Although not competing to represent the West Midlands, the J17/18 squad entered two events. Khloe Curnock, determined to win her first event in a single scull, put in a superb performance to take the win from Pengwern Boat Club by six seconds. Autumn Keil dug deep and sculled well to finish fourth. Matilda Watts, normally known for her coxing, was competing in her first event sitting backwards in a boat and demonstrated just how effective light weight and good technique can be by finishing a highly creditable fifth!
Joe Hodson and Fred Tyler, who had both won their respective single events, joined forces in the J18 double scull event in division three. Facing the worst of the rain and headwind, they were dead level on time with Royal Grammar School Worcester at the 800m mark only to be beaten into second place by 1.1 seconds. Dom Furey and Howard Gould-Yates also enjoyed the drenching conditions finishing tenth.
The King Edward The Sixth School J18 4+ crew of George, Felix, Adam, Sam and Emerald made a strong start and a great pace for their first race together but the opposition closed on them to win by eleven seconds. The school’s second crew to race was the J16 2x of Fred and Cameron who were attempting to qualify for a place at the Junior Inter regional regatta: this meant that the competition they faced was very high. The boys put in a very good performance making great improvements from their last race to come in fourth, nearly ten seconds ahead of the crews behind them.
Up next were the King Edward The Sixth School’s WJ18 4+ crew of Lara, Ellie, Maddie, Gina and Leah who put in a very good performance showing good pace and technique but sadly lost out to a very strong crew from Kings Worcester. Finally Joe in a J17 1x showed a very strong pace in tough condition pulling away from his competitors to win by 3.5 seconds.
Said King Edward The Sixth School coach Helen Smith. “Overall, a good day for King Edward The Sixth School with some excellent results and crews showing a lot of promise for the future.”
Finally but certainly not the last, this was Stratford’s J13 squad’s introduction to rowing competitions and all finished the day smiling despite the weather. The two Stratford quads were racing each other with the winning crew of Maddie Hall, Louie Beason, Imogen Hill, Charles Happel and Ciara Wilson (cox) winning out against Kate Richardson, Grace Beason, Ruby Brooker-Collins, Emily Stobart and Elisabeth Edwards who stepped in to cox at very short notice.
The J13 double of Amalia and Millie Hodgson rowed a very strong race to win and excellent silver medal losing out to Ross Rowing Club. Said J13 coach Steve Marsden, “All agreed that it was a very enjoyable, successful but wet and muddy day!”
For media coverage, please see Stratford Herald page 15 and online http://www.stratford-herald.com/96489-stratford-boat-club-make-waves-junior-championships.html
For more great photographs, see Stuart Baines’ great selection https://1drv.ms/f/s!AgY7EiDB2lCOgtwUuBzTzXeAcQexrg and excellent photos from Hugo Happel https://www.dropbox.com/home/WMRC%20Juniors%20190303%20HH%20photos