7 April, 2021
Golden days on the water for TGS rowing stars
Sydelle Langis enjoyed a fairy-tale ending to her final rowing outing for Takapuna Grammar, as coxswain for the under-16 girls quadruple- sculls crew, winners of national-championship gold medals at the Maadi Cup.
Two of the crew, Annabelle Knowles and Skye Lang, went one better, collecting more gold in the under-16 doubles at the top rowing meeting for New Zealand secondary schools, held at Lake Karapiro on 22-27 March. They won their national final by more than three seconds.
For Sydelle, who is leaving school this year, the win was an especially sweet way to wrap up her time as cox for the four of Annabelle, Skye, and twins Imogen and Daisy Butcher.
The quadruple crew headed to Maadi with a slew of victories to their name. They featured in the Flagstaff in February after winning at the Head of the Harbour regatta on Lake Pupuke.
Achieving their goal of winning the national title helped Takapuna Grammar (TGS) into sixth place overall of the country’s rowing schools.
Other highlights of the week were silver medals in the boys under-15 double sculls to Nicholas Mansell and Sam Mohns, and to the girls under-15 octuplet crew, comprising Kira Sharrock, Lauren Dwyer, Nia Shipkov, Rea Kearns, Neave McConnachie, Lizzie Jeffrey, Isla Waterworth, Teagan Lang and cox Hannah Williamson.
Rowing club president Paula Halliday said achievement was across the board from a team of 42 students over six days of competition. “Every one of our crew members achieved a personal best – I can’t ask for any more from any of them,” she said. Many promising rowers finished just out of the medals, making next year look “incredibly exciting”.
“It’s an outstanding result for the club,” said Halliday. The best results in recent times, if not ever, were made more special coming off the challenges of disrupted competition last year and the loss of coaching legend and Olympian Eric Verdonk, who died last year. Students had spent part of 2020 being coached on their home machines over Zoom.
TGS Rowing Club members appeared in 11 A finals, five B finals and two C finals.
For two years now, TGS has been the top co-ed rowing school in the North Island and now ranks as second among co-eds in the country, behind tiny Dunstan High School in Central Otago, which was a surprise package of success at the Maadi Cup. TGS rose to third place nationally in sculling.
Traditionally single-sex schools dominate rowing, with Rangi Ruru Girls’ School from Christchurch named overall champion this year, winning eight gold medals and a clean sweep of all age groups in the eights finals.
Halliday said that with the strength of its girls line-up, Takapuna hoped to be able to field an eight at Maadi next year, something it had struggled to do numbers wise in the past.
“We’re chasing that elusive eight. It’s not out of reach now. We will push hard for it when competition resumes in October.”
The Maadi Cup this year was the biggest yet, attracting 2623 competitors from 123 schools. Along with their success on the water, TGS had a striking base camp in a picket-fenced enclosure supplied by one of its sponsors, Devonport Decks and Fences.
“There was a buzz about TGS,” said Halliday. She said she was thrilled Sydelle, the team’s co-captain, and in Year 13, was going out with a gold medal as a fitting end to her service with TGS rowing. (Fellow co-captain Connor Bachus is also moving on, after achieving consistently good results).
“She’s been magnificent at coxing,” Halliday said of Sydelle. Coxes can work with different age groups and sexes and Sydelle brought her strategic reading of the lake to a number of crews at Maadi.
“Coxing U16 girls is very different than U15 boys – they have different drivers.” She hopes Sydelle – “a good talker” – will be picked up for further development by Auckland Rowing.
Halliday’s daughter Katie, a former TGS student now at university, coached the under-16 girls quadruple and double-sculls champions with Jessica Hamlin.
Epernay Norman coached the octi girls and Anton Andres and Tom Ferguson the under-15 boys winners. The calibre of volunteer coaches across the programme, backed by supportive parents, was a strength of the club, Halliday said.
While some schools ran “elitist” rowing programmes, where prospects were weighed, the philosophy at TGS was that “anyone who wants to row can row,” said Halliday. Over winter, it would be recruiting. The club includes development members from Belmont Intermediate.
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