Taking their rowing international and representing their country, has been a rewarding experience for St Paul’s students Kate Littlejohn and Grace Watson.
The pair have just returned from Lithuania where they competed in the 2017 World Rowing Junior Championships, placing sixth in the women’s four event.
Kate (Year 13) and Grace (Year 12) were selected to represent New Zealand at the world championships, as part of the coxless four rowing crew, after six days of trials following the Maadi Cup regatta at Karapiro earlier this year. Kate Haines from Auckland’s Diocesan School and Grace Loveridge from Christchurch Girls’ were also selected for the team, to be coached by St Paul’s rowing coach, Nick Barton.
The team arrived in Lithuania 10 days before the competition started, giving them time to settle into their accommodation on Lake Galve in Trakai, about 30-minutes from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, and commence their twice daily training.
“There were plenty of nerves as we built up to the race heats. This was to be our first serious race as a crew, compared to many of the European crews who had been to several regattas already,” says Kate.
The youngest crew to compete at the 2017 championships, the girls drew a tough first heat competing against both Poland and China – teams that had rowers who had returned from the previous year’s competition. The girls needed to finish in the top two to qualify automatically for the semi-finals. Instead they finished third with the seventh best heat time overall, meaning they had to race the repecharge.
“In some ways it was good to get an extra row in the repecharge, as that allowed us to gain some more experience racing at that level,” says Kate.
Finishing third in the repecharge behind Greece and Germany, qualified them for the semi-finals in which they would have to finish in the top three to make the final.
“The New Zealand selectors had based our selection for the crew on our ability to make an A final, so we were really keen to do that and justify our selection,” says Grace.
“We put everything into the semi-finals and rowed our best race of the regatta finishing third from an outside lane, 0.4 seconds ahead of Great Britain – knocking them out of the competition. We were absolutely rapt and collapsed onto the pontoon afterwards!” she says.
Up against a number of experienced crews in the final, the girls gave it their all finishing in sixth place. There were 17 crews competing in the final of the junior women’s four event.
“We were really happy with how our regatta went, given we were the youngest crew competing and the standard of competition was really high. The whole experience was extremely exciting,” says Kate.
Only three out of the eight New Zealand junior crews made it through to an A final.
59 countries and over 700 competitors took part in the 2017 World Rowing Junior Championships. For more details, visit the website.
Photo Caption: Junior women’s four rowing crew (L-R) Grace Loveridge, Kate Haines, Grace Watson and Kate Littlejohn.