STRATFORD Boat Club youngsters Will Beattie and Tomi Wilcock combined to take gold in the J14 double scull category at the Peterborough Junior Championships on Saturday – the penultimate major event of the season.
The duo easily qualified for the final and more close racing was to follow from the boys and the excitement was far from over as from the start the opposition from Maidstone put up the fight in what was to finish as the closest race of the day.
Another steady start found the Stratford crew slightly behind by the halfway point.
Sheer determination mixed with skilled sculling saw the double break away from the bronze position, pushing ever closer towards the gold.
A neck-and-neck final 100 metres had the crowd mesmerised as the finishing bell rang twice in such quick succession it was impossible to know, until the announcement, that Beattie and Wilcock had won the gold medal by 0.4 of a second.
The racing was not over for Wilcock who had earlier in the day qualified for the final of the J14 single sculls event.
With little rest allowed after his doubles joy, Wilcock took to the water and narrowly missed out on a medal place by just a few lengths.
The girls’ double of Bella Chappelhow and Honour Kell were in a hard-fought race, but they missed out on a place in the final by just seven seconds to the eventual winners.
The J14 girls’ singles event saw Freya Watts and Harriet Holmes comfortably winning places in the next round, however, both were pushed out of the places for the grand final.
Chappelhow, Holmes, Keil and Watts, with cox Toby Sartain, joined forces in the girls’ quad for the start of their afternoon racing.
An exciting opening race with only 1.2 seconds separating them from first place saw the girls into the semi-final where accurate bladework and synchronicity quickly led them into the final for what turned out to be the most exciting racing of the day.
With not the best of starts, the girls found themselves in fourth position, however, they calmly focused on the task ahead, maintaining their rhythm and control.
At the halfway point and still in fourth position, the girls could be seen to find a second wind and with 300 metres to go, the encouragement from Sartain saw the boat accelerate to push convincingly into third position.
The crew, further boosted from the ever increasing cheering from the crowd, moved into second place, finally finishing just four seconds behind the winners.
For the J15s, the day’s racing started with Harriet Hodgson and Julia Zampronio Gurden taking to the water in the doubles event.
Despite a strong row, they just missed out on a place in the semi-finals.
Advancement through the heats for the J15 squad then fell on the shoulders of those taking part in the singles events. Elisabeth Edwards was next to take her lane, yet despite finishing in a respectable third, she missed out on the further heats.
Meanwhile, Conar Aitchison and Will Clarke, in separate heats, couldn’t progress, despite some hard racing along the course.
Hopes then rested with Sophie Elstone, whose race plan saw her establish first position early on and she was able to control the race to win her heat for a place in the final later in the day.
Another good start looked promising and she pushed strongly through the first half of the race.
The last 200 metres forced each competitors to their limits, with Elstone finishing in third to clinch the bronze medal.
Aitchison and Clarke combined in the doubles event and with a good start from the first 500 metres, they settled nicely for the final push.
As the finish approached, the duo upped their pace, but they narrowly missed out on a place in the final.
Meanwhile, the girls’ quad crew of Edwards, Elstone, Hodgson and Zampronio Gurden, coxed by Sartain, started well, but were unable to advance to the finals.
J15 coach Trevor Tiller said: “It was a fantastic day’s racing for the Stratford juniors with all showing great promise leading into the highlight of the season later in July – the British Rowing Junior Championships in Nottingham.”