Junior rowers shine despite challenging conditions

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STRATFORD Boat Club’s junior crews were back on the water for the pinnacle events of the head racing season, the Junior Sculling Head at Dorney Lake and the Schools’ Head of the River on the Thames in London.

On the Olympic course at Dorney Lake, the J14 and J15 squads took on competition from around the UK in addition to some crews travelling from Italy.

The J15 squad fielded two women’s coxed quadruple sculls and demonstrated strength in depth, with both crews finishing in the top 20.

The crew of Gracie Mitchell, Molly Gill-Swift, Khloe Curnock, Katie Phillips and Matilda Watts (cox) finally overhauled the crew of Autumn Keil, Emily Browne, Jessica Weisheu, Katie Wellstead and Mimi Hill (cox).

In the open event, the J15 crew of Max Griffiths, Geoffrey Flambert, Fred Tyler, Joe Hodson and Naomi Sergeant (cox), rowing for the first time together, put in a respectable performance to finish halfway up the field.

The result of the day came from the J14 women’s coxed quadruple scull of Jasmine Mountney, Mya Kenny, Nixie Brunt, Alice Baines and Naomi Sergeant (cox).

They mastered the tricky conditions to finish ninth of the 58 crews entered.

Steve Wellstead, the club’s junior co-ordinator, said: “This places Stratford juniors amongst the top crews in the country.

“It makes for an exciting summer regatta season ahead.”

Meanwhile, at the School’s Head of the River Race in London, which attracted 350 crews from around the country, two crews from Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club were there to battle it out in gruelling conditions.

Strong squalls and rough water — with breaking waves in places — forced the organisers of the UK’s largest annual school-age head race to shorten the course, which traditionally follows the reverse of the University Boat Race route from Chiswick Bridge to Putney.

“At times it felt like we were rowing on the sea,” said Issy Marsden, stroke of the Stratford WJ16 coxed four.

Along with crew members Ellie Gray, Lara Davies, Maddy Winsper and cox Robin Connolly, the girls put in an impressive time to finish seventh out of 14, beating tough competition from Kingston Girls School, Kings School Worcester and Idroscalo Club from Italy.

Their time of 6.26.3 would also have secured them seventh place in the older WJ18 category.

Also representing Stratford, Maddie Griffiths, Theo Mordaunt, Claire Teakle and Sophia Ward put in a spirited performance in their WJ17 coxless quad with a time of 7.02.6.

“It is tremendous to see our juniors competing with the best crews in the country and some from abroad on arguably the toughest stretch of water to be found anywhere in the UK,” said coach, Mark Holden.

“The weather conditions were extremely challenging and both Stratford crews acquitted themselves extremely well.”