Christchurch young blades take rowing’s top prizes at the Aon Maadi Cup
Junior rowing's top two prizes - the 2012 Aon Maadi Cup for boys and the Levin Jubilee Cup for girls are heading to Christchurch after major wins for Christ's College boys and St Margaret's girls. It was a remarkable result for a rowing region hard hit by the September and February earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
In a thrilling blanket finish to the Aon Maadi Cup after an epic race, Christ's College held on to defeat holders Auckland Grammar by a few feet, who themselves just held off Westlake College and Australian visitors Nudgee College from Brisbane.
It was MacLeans College who led early and stayed out front for the first 500 metres. From there the big guns moved into position at the front of the field. Westlake, Auckland and Christ's were all there with each waiting for the other's major push. When they came, it was Christ's College that delivered the best effort, a breathtaking burn at 900 metres to go taking them clear of the chasing pack. It was never over until the line, however, and the top three were overlapping on the line with Christ's just 0.7 seconds ahead.
The Levin Jubilee Cup quickly became a three horse race for the top junior rowing girls when St Margaret's led out holders Waikato Diocesan and St Peters Cambridge, who had really stamped their mark on the regatta with multiple wins.
The South Island girls took an early lead of a third of a length and then extended it out with another push before halfway. This took them to half a length as the 8000 string crowd drew closer. Another huge push was too much for St Peters, who began to fall away around the 1250 metre mark, but Dio were still in the hunt and not too keen on giving up their title from 2011. Right the way to the finish line the Hamilton school attacked and it clawed the deficit back to about a third of a length. Victory though went to St Margaret's and the trophy went back to Christchurch after a year on the North Island.
Elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere's biggest regatta, there was some superb action in the small boat classes, a discipline which New Zealand as a nation excels at on the international stage.
Twins Cameron and Russell Crampton from Timaru Boys High School shot out to take the first and second places early on in the Junior 18 single sculls, the top event for young New Zealand sculling prospects. Cameron, who posted fastest time in the heats, took the race on and pulled out a small lead over his brother, who in turn enjoyed a similar margin ahead of the rest of the field in what was developing into a close race.
Into the second half and Queen Charlotte's Mitchell Mackenzie Mol came into the picture, passing Russell Crampton and taking a narrow second position. With his brother out front, Russell attacked again and just when it looked like he might make it a family 1-2, Rangiora High School's Lawson Morris-Whyte raced into the picture. With just a few strokes to go, it looked like he was out of it, but a phenomenal final 50 metres saw him race through to second place - pushing Mackenzie-Mol into third and Russell Crampton into a surprise fourth.
There was gold for both young stars later however, when they dominated the final of the Under 18 Double Sculls, coming home a couple of lengths ahead of St Peters College and well clear of the rest.
Up and coming star Zoe McBride won the Under 18 girls' race in the single scull - on a South Island dominated dais- carving out a decent six second margin ahead of Kristen Froude of James Hargest College and Heather Livesey of Roncalli College.
Other wins recorded during the day included Waimea College in the Boys Under 16 Double Sculls, Roncalli College - having a great regatta - in the Girls Under 15 Double Scull while the slick combination of Parry and Bridgewater from Tauranga Boys dominated the Under 18 Lightweight Double Sculls and Zoe McBride made it two for the day winning the Girls Under 18 Lightweight Double Sculls for Kavanagh College with crew mate Hannah Duggan. Craighead Diocesan School took the win in the Under 17 Girls Double Scull.
In the bigger boats, Christchurch Girls High School in the Girls' Under 16 Coxed Quad Sculls. Auckland Grammar won the Under 17 Fours and the Under 16 Eight, Marlborough girls won the Under 16 Fours. In addition, Hamilton Boys secured the Under 15 Coxed Fours and
A demonstration run by the New Zealand men's eight was a nice touch by organisers, with two of the crew on board - Hamish Burson and Ben Hammond - having won the Aon Maadi Cup.
The idea was to inspire the young rowing athletes at the regatta to strive for bigger and better things in the sport and with the Olympics just around the corner, the timing for athletes from 118 schools taking part in the regatta could not have been better. Top school St Peters of Cambridge look to be well on the way already.