All three of the Itchen J14s had qualified, via their schools, to represent Hampshire at the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships (NJIRC) which was held on Friday 17 March at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in London. The championships have grown to become the biggest event for 11-18yr olds in the world, with almost 3,000 entries from Schools and Rowing Clubs for individuals and team competitions.
For our Juniors, the alarm clocks went off REALLY early, as everyone had to meet at Southampton Airport Parkway train station at 05:45. It would have been really good if the coach driver had set his alarm too, to prevent everyone from hanging around for over an hour until the coach eventually turned up.
Up at Lee Valley, the comparative calm of a couple of hundred parked coaches and mini-buses in the car park was in stark contrast to the full volume noise inside the huge building. With almost 3,000 rowers plus their teachers and/or rowing coaches, a large smattering of parents and a massive army of volunteers the place was buzzing. Races started at around 09:30 and went on uninterrupted until about 16:00.
On hand this year, as always, were a large contingent of the Oxford and Cambridge crews that will be competing at this year’s boat race in a few weeks’ time. Added to that (and wearing a Volunteer T-shirt) was GB Rowing Team’s triple Olympic Gold medallist Andrew Triggs Hodge and Olympic finalist Sam Townsend to hand out some medals throughout the day.
For our J14’s their time came shortly after the relay races had finished at lunch time. The J14 (yr.9) Boys entry list was 211 long, and the Girls entry list even longer with 243. The key to any sort of success at these events is to have a plan and stick to it. That is never more true than when you are surrounded by some rowers who appear to have learnt their rowing technique at a bucking-bronco event, or those that think they can win the 4-minute event by going flat out for the first 30 seconds and then gasping for breath for the remaining 3min 30s.
Maisie and Ellie were in different groups with Maisie finishing 2nd in her group and Ellie 3rd in hers. After all the groups had finished it was heartbreak for Maisie to finish 4th and miss out by only 2 meters from a Bronze medal. Maisie’s final result for the 4min event was 1,037m with a split of 1min 55.7 and Ellie finished well inside the top 50 too.
James had a personal goal of setting his PB higher than last year’s winning score – which he managed. Unfortunately for James, 2 other boys must have had the same idea, but James did finally win a Bronze medal for his efforts with a distance of 1,169m @ 1m 42.7.
A very long day eventually came to an end when the coach pulled into Southampton Airport Parkway again at nearly 19:00. Well done Maisie, Ellie and James.