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Thrills and spills on medals day in Penrith

Finals began as another clear and calm morning broke at the Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta. The small boat titles were secured throughout the morning with impressive racing keeping the crowd in the grandstand captivated and cheering for their loved ones.

Lily Eales from Loreto Kirribilli, was the first champion of the day, winning the U17 Women’s Single Scull this morning. “It was so good, my race plan worked really well – I pushed a bit earlier than planned but was a really good race,” Eales said. A tussle for the minor positions on the line resulted in Lily Gavan of Sydney Rowing Club holding on to second from fast-finishing Corio Bay’s Luka Currell.

Lily Eales (centre) was crowned U17 Women’s Single Scull Champion (Copyright RA/Delly Carr)

It was an impressive display from West Australian Rowing Club’s Hamish Henriques taking the title of the U19 Men’s Single Scull in 7:10.68, 8.61 seconds clear of silver medallist Lukas Matic of Mercantile. The push for third was again thrilling to watch as three scullers came through the finish line in under a second, with Max Von Appen from UTS visibly ecstatic to take the bronze.

In the U19 Women’s Single Scull, Rebecca Bye of North Esk took out the gold, yet there was a photo finish between second and third. Clare Netherway from University of Western Australia and Lucy Hope from Toowong changed positions several times throughout the race, with Netherway just taking the silver on the line by 0.05 of a second from Hope who claimed the bronze.

An exciting battle paddle to the line in the U19 Men’s Coxless Pair resulted in Brighton Grammar’s Harrison Kirkham and Martin Kulesza taking the win over Torben Ungemach and Nikolas Pender from Mosman in 6:59.67. The two went bow ball to bow ball in the last 200m before Brighton broke away to win by 1.48 seconds.

The winners of the U21 Men’s Pair fought their way to first place throughout the 2km race; Jethro Gifford and Benjamin Pincus from Toowong were so excited about the win they flipped their boat on the finish line and were all smiles for the cameras.

Birthday Boy Cormac Kennedy-Leverett dominated the Under 23 Men’s Single Scull and won in a time of 6:59.30 over Harry Glackin (Capital Lakes) and Jackson Free (Griffith Uni Surfers Paradise).

National Training Centre athlete Alexander Hill (Adelaide) went back to back and won the Open Men’s Single Scull for the second year in a row, this year in a time of 6:46.32 over Caleb Antill (ANU) in second and Nick Purnell (Sydney University) in third.

“If you asked me if this was possible three or four years ago I wouldn’t have even had a chance. It’s a good feeling to be able to come away with the win in such a strong sculling field,” explained Hill.

When asked about his prowess in both rowing disciplines, Hill attributes his success with intense kilometres sculling in the pre-season. “Ian Wright, our coach in Canberra makes us do a lot of K’s in the scull, it makes moving between the sweep and scull boats much more comfortable.”

Alex Hill is hoisted by Caleb Antill and Nick Purnell (Copyright RA/Delly Carr)

The Open Women’s Coxless Pair saw Jess Morrison (Mercantile) and Annabelle McIntyre (Fremantle) win the Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy. McIntyre is from the late Sarah Tait’s hometown of Perth while Morrison represents her club, making this a very special win for the pair. Morrison remarked how wonderful it was to have won the trophy, “Sarah was from my club, she was such a huge idol – still is. She was an inspirational athlete and racer – this race is in her honour.”

An exciting finish in the Open Men’s Coxless Pair with boats full of National Training Centre athletes saw Josh Booth and Simon Keenan of Melbourne University Boat Club take a final desperate lift to the line to take the win off Hamish Playfair (UTS) and Spencer Turrin (Sydney Rowing Club) by 0.20 of a second. In third place was Sam Hardy and Joshua Hicks of Sydney Rowing Club.

Another close margin and photo finish was required for the U23 Lightweight Women’s Single Scull which saw Lucy Theodore of Toowong take the win over Georgina Master of UTS in a time of 8:05.27. The two took it to the line as they finished only 0.17 of a second apart, in third place was Jilly Roberts of ANU.

Annabelle McIntyre and Jess Morrison with the Sarah Tait Memorial Trophy (Copyright RA/Delly Carr)

The PR3 Women’s Single Scull demonstrated the diversity of the sport of rowing, Nikki Ayes of Capital Lakes convincingly took the win by 14.06 seconds to newcomer Anu Francis (Torrens) while third place went to 2003 World Champion Julia Story (Drummoyne).

National Champion Nikki Ayers said, “It was a really good race out there today, I’ve been rowing for about 14 months now; this is my second nationals and I’m pretty excited to see the Para world growing in rowing with so many new people coming in and being developed. It’ll be really exciting to see what happens in the future.”

Newcomer Anu Francis explained, ‘I’ve been rowing for six months, I’m pretty stoked with how I went today after such a short time of rowing and at my first Nationals.

“I competed for Australia in Para Badminton last year, but it was a little too hard on my body and my joints because of all the sudden movements. I found out about a female para athlete talent search for rowing, I came along to the come and try day and didn’t expect much. I got accepted and just fell in love with rowing really fast!” said Francis.

The schools made their debut in the afternoon and did not disappoint, with some great racing demonstrated in the eights. MLC Kew posted the fastest women’s time with a very quick 6:40.85, while Scotch College Victoria established their dominance with an impressive 5:49.03 in their Schoolboy’s Eights heat.

Friends sculler Lucas Wigston outran all the heats with a 7:19.68 in the Schoolboy Single. Ruby O’Keefe from Queens Gate School was quickest for the girls with a time of 8:11.56, however Grace Sypher deserves a mention after racing in the final of the U19 Women’s Single Scull this morning and placing fourth, she backed it up and won her heat with a time of 8:15.45.