NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) athletes were among the stand out performers at the 2022 Australian Rowing Championships (ARC) at Victoria’s Lake Nagambie over the past week.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medallists, Rowena Meredith, Jack Hargreaves, Alex Purnell, Spencer Turrin and Erik Horrie were among the NSWIS athletes to medal at the ARC.
Read on below for the full recap on NSWIS results.
After much planning and anticipation, racing for day one of the 2022 Australian Rowing Championships began at 8am Monday 28 March at Victoria’s Lake Nagambie.
The weeks leading into ARC saw many athletes, coaches, and event organisers conduct major changes to their respective training, travel, and organisational plans, due to the recent flood affecting NSW and Southeast Queensland but at ARC it was business as usual with the spotlight on day one going to the small boats – single sculls and coxless pairs for men and women – with many of the athletes vying for the national team selection.
The women’s open single event saw NSW Institute of Sport athletes Rowena Meredith and Tara Rigney come up against Olympian Annabelle McIntyre, Sarah Hawe and Singapore’s Joan Poh to compete over the two heats, with Rowena and Hawe comfortably winning heats 1 and 2 respectively.
“It is a bit different down here in Nagambie. We are lucky that we came here in 2021 with the national team to do some simulation work for the international season. It is good to be familiar, but it is still very different having nationals down here, but it’s also awesome to see that everyone relocated to compete,” Rowena said post-race.
Tara added that all her pre-race excitement disappeared once the heats began, “It was great to blow out those pre-race cobwebs, and the flat conditions were a joy to race in, although that might change later [in the week]. I am happy to be here, and I can’t wait to race more this week,” she said.
In the men’s events, it was Tokyo 2020 Olympic coxless four gold medallist and NSWIS co-male athlete of the year, Jack Hargreaves OAM who showed his sculling prowess to win his heat.
“I love sculling. I always compete in the single at every national championships,” said Jack.
“It is good to take a break from sweep, and sculling really sharpens your technique and improves you as an oarsman.”
The sun rose cool and clear over Nagambie Lake for day two of the 2022 Australian Rowing Championships. Light headwinds greeted the small boats as they hit out in small boat repechages from Monday’s events, providing overall slower times yet still competitive racing as crews tussled for progression through to quarter, semi, and A finals in the large field of both underage and open events.
NSWIS athlete Harry Crouch proved the standout performer on day two, competing in the under 23s and as the only athlete posting a faster time in the more experienced repechages by only three seconds.
The afternoon brought repechages from both lightweight and underage team boat classes, while sheer numbers in the underage events have created tough qualifying progressions for individual and team classes, the open and under 23 lightweight double sculls heats were all straight progressions through to their finals later in the week.
Day three saw the start of the quarter and semi-finals of the 2022 Australian Rowing Championships at Nagambie Lakes. The boats met buy prevailing southerly winds and conditions forcing an early re-draw, the cross-headwind favouring the lanes on the far side, therefore, calling for the higher seeded crews from heats and repechages to be drawn from lane two instead of the traditional central lane spread.
In the under 23 men’s single scull racing, the set-up was made for the final to become the showdown of the 2021 Australian Rowing Underage Team – with NSWIS’ Marcus Della Marta to push for the podium against Cormac Kennedy-Leverett, Alex Rossi and Lukas Matic.
In the open men’s single scull, Jack Hargreaves OAM and Alex Purnell OAM finished within seconds behind Caleb Antill. While Antill managed to beat out the Tokyo champions today, he pointed to his Australian Rowing teammates as the favourites to win the event.
“I’m not feeling the pressure – I think with two Olympic gold medallists in the race, Hargreaves is the favourite. You never know though – my plan is to just go out and execute my own race. Stick to the plan is the most important thing, and the outcome will take care of itself. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to race against some of my good mates,” said Antill.
The NSWIS scholarship holders (Jack and Alex) were both in the gold medal winning four at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games last year, though both demonstrated their prowess with two oars, negotiating the tricky conditions to progress through to the final.
Alex was happy to qualify, saying, “I wanted to make the final for the single, I haven’t raced it for a while, I think my skills are a bit rough, so I’m happy I got through.”
The wind dropped slightly overnight to provide some welcome relief to the early small boat finalists before building back up again at Lake Nagambie on day four of the 2022 Australian Rowing Championships.
The Dr Stephen Hinchy Memorial Trophy was presented to NSWIS scholarship holder, Sydney University Boat Club’s Jack Hargreaves for the first time – Jack having had entered the open men’s single scull every year since 2017, and while he won the silver in both 2018 and last year in 2021, this was the first time he took out the title.
“We’ve been doing plenty of sculling in the National Training Centre in Canberra, that’s maybe helped me catch up to the others. Don McLachlan looked after me all last week, setting up my boat and making sure things were all in the right place for me. It’s always a hard race against my teammates, Caleb [Antill] and Dave [Barthalot], they always go quite hard, so you need to be on you’re a-game to beat them.”
Fellow NSWIS athlete Rowena Meredith of Sydney University Boat Club won the open women’s single scull – a first-time win in the event for the Olympic bronze medallist.
Rowena went stroke for stroke with Olympic Champion Annabel McIntyre OAM through the 500m mark yet pulled ahead through the final stages to win by 2.91 seconds.
Speaking of her experience in Tokyo, Rowena said it shaped her attitude to training and racing in tough conditions.
“There were some whitecaps on the start line which makes it very challenging across the field, I think. It was firmly established in Tokyo that we can race and perform well in all conditions, and they will continue to run races in all conditions. Having another regatta like this just shows that we need to keep perfecting our skills in all weather, not just flat water.”
The Sydney University Boat Club duo and NSWIS scholarship holders, Jackson Kench and Will O’Shannessy who secured their first title in the Ted Bromley Memorial Trophy for the open men’s coxless pair.
“We know there’s a lot of history in the men’s pair, so to have our names on the trophy means a lot. We’re two young guys trying to make our own name, so that’s something that drove us through that race,”
“I thought we had a comfortable margin but towards the end, the others started to come back at us and closed up the field. We clipped a few buoys when we lifted towards the end, and so I just yelled, ‘five strokes!’ – to come out on top was pretty good”.
The afternoon’s weather forced a change in racing format, with President of the Jury Caroline Schomberg saying that time trials were the only way to preserve fairness in racing due to the conditions creating an unfair spread over the lanes.
The lake was full of rowers running through their final race preparations as the sun broke over the course on Friday and day five of the 2022 Australian Rowing Championships.
The Open Men’s Coxless Four was won by the Sydney University BC and Sydney RC combination of NSWIS athletes – Alex Purnell OAM, Spencer Turrin OAM, Jack Hargreaves OAM and Jack O’Brien. The crew, who were named as the crew to contest the world cups later this year, were grateful for the opportunity to race the new combination as Jack O’Brien is the only change from the crew that won the gold medal at Tokyo 2020 last year.
Fellow NSWIS athlete Erik Horrie joined the podium finishes, earning his medal in the PR1 men’s single scull.
A sprinkling of rain greeted early risers on day six of the 2022 Australian Rowing Championship. While the overcast conditions saw rowers rug up in the chilly morning air, the racers breathed a sigh of relief as the forecast predicted the wind to stay moderate and steady throughout the day.
The race of the day was the open women’s coxless quad scull which was a nail-biter that saw the top three place getters finish within three seconds of each other. Sydney Rowing Club kept their bow in front down the 2000m course, finishing fast to secure the gold. Sydney University Boat Club put in a stellar second thousand to move up from fourth place, past UTS Haberfield, and into contention for the silver medal. Potentially leaving the sprint too late, the course ended before Sydney University could catch the ANU/Huon composite who secured the silver 0.98 seconds ahead of bronze medallists.
NSWIS athlete Harriet Hudson of Sydney Rowing Club spoke about how special it was to win gold with a full club crew, saying “club rowing is about really getting around each other, you push each other to do your best because you’re not rowing for yourself but rowing for your club.”
Joining the highlight events of day six, the open men’s quadruple scull saw the Australian National University Composite crew feature three out of four of the men’s quadruple scull Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists. The experienced quad put on a show to storm into first place. Griffith University Surfers Paradise claimed the silver medal, while North Esk composite pipped UTS Haberfield at the post, securing the bronze by less than half a second.
As Olympic bronze and silver medallist Cameron Girdlestone’s only race on the program, he said he enjoyed having a hit out with such a high-quality crew: “It was good fun to be back with the guys”.
The best racing conditions were kept for the final day of racing at Nagambie Lakes, with calm waters and excitement in the air.
The most anticipated race of the day was the King’s Cup, an interstate race between the open men’s eights from each state, for which the showdown was between giants Victoria and New South Wales. Last year’s race the margin was as close as it gets, Victoria edging over the line 0.16 seconds over NSW. This year, NSW left nothing to chance, taking an early lead and steadily edging away throughout the length of the 2000m course to finish first with a length over the Victorian crew, with Western Australia claiming the bronze.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Olympic Champion stroke Alex Purnell said post-race.
“We had a bit more preparation this year, and we really wanted to get that trophy back. We had some really good training sessions leading into the race today, and the war up was spot on so we just executed what we needed to do in the race.
“I think that last year’s disappointment adds to this year’s jubilation.”
In the Queen’s Cup, Victoria stormed away for the win – taking their fourteenth victory in fifteen years.
The PR3 men’s single was a first-time win for the ACT, represented by Nick Neales who bravely lead the whole way to claim the win over NSWIS’ James Talbot who took silver, and Queensland’s Mac Russell who secured the bronze.
In the race for the Nell Slater Trophy, Queensland’s Lily Alton took an early lead over fellow Team NSWIS athlete Harriet Hudson, an Olympic bronze medallist in the women’s quadruple scull at Tokyo. Harriet had a brave second 500 metres to push past Alton and extend a lead from there. Victoria’s Milla Marston put in a strong performance for bronze.
NSWIS’ David Bartholot rowed to a convincing win in the President’s Cup, close to six seconds ahead of ACT’s fast-finishing Caleb Antill, and Victoria’s Redmond Matthews who secured the bronze.
“It was a tough race,” David explained post-race.
“I knew I had to get a bit of distance on Caleb [Antill], as he’s got a really good finish, so I just tried to push through the middle of the race and extend the margin.
“It’s really nice to train and have it pay off. I’m really happy” he said.
Tasmania took out their third consecutive win in the Victoria Cup with a convincing margin of 17.56 seconds back to the NSW combination, who finished with the silver ahead of Queensland who took bronze. While Queensland defended their 2021 title in the Penrith Cup, leading all the way to secure the win over a fast-finishing NSW who stole the silver medal from Victoria.
The Youth Eights were light blue all the way as New South Wales claimed wins in both the Bicentennial Cup and Noel F Wilkinson Trophy.
Six seat of the winning NSW Men’s Youth Eight crew and NSWIS Training agreement athlete, Max Von Appen, attributed their win over Queensland in Silver and Victoria in Bronze, to the cohesion within the crew.
“This year we got a new bunch of boys, and I feel as though we just gelled really well together. We hopped in the crew last week, and honestly, from the first session we were all together, it was really good,” Max said.
NSW also won the overall point score to win the Rowing Australia Cup and Sydney Rowing Club won the overall medal tally as the most successful club at the 2022 Australian National Championships.
Full results can be found via the Rowing Australia website.
Article details courtesy Rowing Australia, Image credit Delly Carr, Rowing Australia
By Caitlin Glanville, NSW Institute of Sport