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Rowing returns to national stage

The picturesque Lake Barrington has today welcomed athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters from across the country to the 2021 Aon Australian Rowing Championships. The event, supported by Events Tasmania, will host 1599 athletes as they race over the next seven days, with 1309 entries into the 129 events in the program which has 468 races scheduled.

The COVID-pandemic that struck in early 2020 saw last year’s Nationals cancelled, so it has been with great anticipation that the rowing community has travelled to compete and spectate at Lake Barrington.

The Under 17 Single Scull heats were first up this morning – with many athletes competing in their first National Championships. The winner of the women’s event at the NSW State Championships was Kinross Wolaroi sculler Lucy Searle, however fast sculling from Mosman’s Imogen Grey saw her pipped in her heat, however both progressed through to the semi-finals. There were tight heats across the board, with Loreto Marryatville’s Victoria Binns, Centenary sculler Sophie Malcolm and West Australian Rowing Club’s (WARC) Sinead Reading progressing too, which will make for fast semi-finals to be held on Wednesday, while repechages will be raced tomorrow. Rockhampton Grammar’s Chad Willet posted the fastest time in the Men’s heats with a 7:50.95, while Mosman’s Joe Lynch, Scotch Oakburn’s Cameron Parker and Huon’s Patrick Robbie took out their respective heats.

Canberra Grammar teammates Zoe Bond and Madeline Vagg, coached by Olympian Sarah Cook, won their heats in the Under 19 Women’s Single Scull, while two South Australian scullers Sofia Suhinin of Pembroke School and Sophie Barr of St Peter’s Girls’ School took out the other heats. Sixteen-year-old sculler Adam Holland posted the fastest time in the heats of the Under 19 Men’s Single – the Scotch College, Adelaide sculler currently holds the age Australian erg record for the 15-16 age group, posting a 6:09.1 in the recent World Rowing Indoor Championships; Ballarat Grammar’s Hugh Bond was pushed to the finish line by teammate Will Clarke, while Radford College’s William Gregory, coached by Vicky Spencer, won a competitive heat in similar times to the heat won by Banks sculler Mark Putter, also pushed to the line by the top four in that race.

Local pair of Lindsay Calvert and Heidi Schouten from Scotch Oakburn delighted the home crowd in a tight heat for the Under 19 Women’s Coxless Pair, they will progress straight through to the A-Final along with two University of Queensland crews. Joining them will be Mersey Rowing Club’s family combination of sisters Lydia and Prudence Tippett, coached by their father David Tippett, who snapped up the last straight progression position in the A-Final. The St Peter’s College – Adelaide pair of Jeremy Beale and Jake Nesbitt, coached by double Olympic medallist, James McRae, dominated their heat in the men’s event, while Griffith University Surfers Paradise’s (GUSPRC) crew of Lachlan Wright and Mackenzie Branch took out their heat, the duo are coached by 2008 Olympic gold medallist, in the Men’s Pair, Duncan Free.

The Under 21 and Under 23 events for the morning’s racing were keenly watched by supporters and selectors as the outcomes of these races will influence invitations to the Selection Events for the Underage National Rowing Team. Laura Gourley of UTS Rowing Club posted the fastest time of the U21 Women’s Single Scull heats – 8:09.57; Alex Rossi of WARC posted the fastest time of the U21 Men’s Single Sculls in 7:16.73, however the most thrilling finish this morning was between Cormac Hayes of Canberra Rowing Club and Nick Blackman of Adelaide University Boat Club. Hayes nipped across the line to take the win by 0.07 of a second, snatching the all-important progression to the semi-final in a time of 7:17.15. The Swan River duo of Jacqui Swick and Rebecca Pretorius, coached by Mark Beer, appear to be the ones to watch in the Under 21 Women’s Pair, while the Melbourne University pair of James Scott and Harry Fox were lengths clear of the opposition in the men’s event.

Tara Rigney is another young athlete making a name for herself at this year’s event, having been recently selected for the Australian Rowing Team in the Women’s Double Scull with Amanda Bateman. The Sydney University Boat Club sculler dominated the U23 event, cruising to an easy win in her heat and well clear of any times in the class. Former Under 19 Men’s Double Scull World Champion, Cormac Kennedy-Leverett, was likewise clear of the field in the U23 Men’s Single Scull. Meanwhile, Paddy Holt of UTS (and the Reinhold Batschi Men’s National Training Centre in Canberra) and Harry Glackin from Capital Lakes were the winners of their respective heats in the event. Both the men’s and women’s U23 Pairs were closely fought, with all races tight around the top end – the repechages run tomorrow will still have top quality State Institute-supported crews that are all fighting for a spot in the A-Final that will race on Thursday.

Amanda Bateman from Mercantile Rowing Club, and the Hancock Prospecting Women’s National Training Centre, was the fastest female sculler of the day posting a 7:43.26 in the Open Women’s Single, while Jack Hargreaves posted a swift 7:01.57 in the Open Men’s heat. After the lunch break the weather shifted to a helpful tail breeze leading to fast times from the underage Lightweight Single Sculls, the fastest of which was 7:06.63 by Adelaide Rowing Club sculler Oscar McGuinness in the Under 23 Men’s event. Many of the young scullers who raced in the morning, joined forces to row the double scull events in afternoon, leading to highly competitive racing from the young athletes who had grown in confidence after their first run down the course earlier in the day.

Day two of racing tomorrow is expected to be a wet one, with showers expected. Racing will be dominated by repechages in the morning, followed by Open Sweep small boat events, while the PR3 Men’s and Open Lightweight Women’s Single Scull heats in the middle of the day will see some of Australia’s top athletes take to the course. Racing will be broadcast live on Rowing Australia ‘s website and Facebook page, while if you’re attending the course – please don’t forget to check in with the Check In TAS app and bring your wet weather gear!