The Maadi Cup rowing regatta is one of the leading events on the sporting calendar and a pinnacle for many of New Zealand’s secondary school athletes.
Each year over 2,000 rowers from some 120 schools and thousands more support staff and spectators take part. This year’s Maadi Cup is at Lake Karapiro from 25-30 March (reserve day 31 March).
Timaru’s Craighead Diocesan School consistently features in finals and regularly picks ups medals in the girls regatta at Maadi Cups.
At this past weekend’s South Island Secondary School Championships Craighead Diocesan School crews won eight medals. Three of them were golds, as below:
Head Coach Dean Milne has coached rowing for 46 years and spent two decades as Craighead Diocesan’s mentor and volunteer coach. This year will be his 21st and last with the squad.
In that time, Milne has seen numerous Craighead Diocesan rowers medal, many of them winning gold, and subsequently go on to bigger things. Former student Emma Dyke is currently in the New Zealand Women’s Eight squad.
Milne says the highlights that stand out over the past two decades are the unexpected successes.
“The performances that stick in my mind over the years are the crews that I never expected to win medals. They are the highlights to me. When I see a crew that I put on the water and I say, hey guys let’s just go out and enjoy it, and then they come through and medal that’s really satisfying.”
Just this past weekend there was one such instance.
“The pair is one of the hardest boats in rowing because it takes so much timing and you have got to be really in touch with your partner and it is all about being together. So my theory on rowing in pairs is you must spend a lot of time together putting in the legwork.”
“This past weekend I had two U17 girls at a bit of a loose end so I said to them, well you go out in the U18 pair and have a crack at racing it and get some experience for next year in it. They had only been out as a pair in a boat twice. They went out there and won it.”
“It was just so exciting to see that – they went out with no expectations. To do that in the SISS Championships is prestigious, the crews they beat will be right up there in rowing into the future. I was just hoping that they didn’t fall out!”
Teamwork is a strong theme in Craighead Diocesan School’s rowing.
“I have always believed that the strength of Craighead rowing is that we are a squad and everyone is equal.
“Everyone rows together, the senior girls and the novice girls all work together. The leading rowers don’t get any special treatment.
“We currently have rowers going well but the only reason why they are going well is because they have got some good girls around them.”
Their current success is all the better because right now, Craighead Diocesan and the other Timaru schools can hardly train on their home water.
“We have had no water to train on since coming back to school for Term one. Our creek [Saltwater Creek] has basically dried up on us.”
Even in peak condition Saltwater Creek in Timaru is only wide enough for two boats side by side. So it means a lot of travelling for training as well as competition for the local rowers.
The Maadi Cup regatta is a fortnight away. What is the Craighead Diocesan squad doing this coming weekend?
“This weekend is what we call our overload weekend. We go back up to Lake Ruataniwha and they will be pushed hard this weekend!”
Milne says that lack of fitness is never an issue for Craighead rowers when Maadi Cup week rolls around, but that isn’t everything.
“I think physical training is one thing, but that is the mental side of things that can be key at the Maadi Cup.”
“Over the years I have taken crews to the Maadi that based on their SISS results were odds-on favourites to take out titles. But the whole atmosphere and enormity of it got to them.
“Crews fade at Maadi, simply because it is so big and so much is made of it. This is all they talk about from September, it is all about Maadi. Then they finally hit Maadi and there are 2,500 of their peers there and the spotlight gets turned on.
“With the SISS Championships if they fail there then they get another chance to row better at Maadi. They get to Maadi and that is it for the year, and for the senior students that’s it for their school careers.”
On the water, Milne has seen the event evolve over the past two decades.
“The times that the U15 crews are putting in now are probably about equal to what the U18 girls were doing 21 years ago.”
“That is why New Zealand rowing is still top of the pile and a high world standard. I have had parents over the years say to me do we need to train this hard? My response is no we don’t but if we don’t we can’t expect to be where we want to be – when you have got world class rowers out there you have got to train at a world class level to stay with them.”
Craighead Diocesan has a senior roll of 280 students including a boarding school, reflected in the approximate two thirds-one third ratio to boarders and day students in its rowing squads. This year’s squad is some 27-strong.
The rowers that featured in the SISS Championships will be the ones to watch at Maadi Cup. They won’t be entering an U18 Eight, although they have in the past.
For very school, not least Craighead Diocesan, the logistics of attending Maadi Cup are significant.
Support is necessary for success. “I have always maintained over my years of coaching that if I have got a good parent group backing me, then I can do pretty much everything on the water. If I don’t have that is makes it really hard. I have been blessed over the years to have had incredible parent backing.”
“As the coach, anything that goes on in the water is my domain. Anything that goes on off the water is the parents domain. At the start of the season I give them a calendar and they take it away and sort out all the transport, accommodation, eating and logistics themselves sorted. It is like an army movement – we have got a mother that handles all the food, a mother that handles all the travel and so on!”
Plus support coaching staff.
“Over the years, a number of old girls have come back to help out coaching. This year am I very fortunate, with former student Emily Goodhew as the official assistant coach, and others like former student Vicky Taggart [son and former high performance athlete] Adam Milne, and Hannah Duncum who has just moved to Timaru.”
As for coach Milne and his stepping down after this year’s Maadi Cup as Craighead Diocesan’s Head Coach, he has the last word: “I have been coaching for 46 years and I have never had a summer off, so I think I will see what it is like to actually have a summer at home first!”
The 2019 Aon Maadi Cup regatta will be held at Lake Karapiro from 25-30 March (reserve day 31 March).
2,166 athletes from a record 131 schools and around 10,000 people will watch the finals from the bank.
This past weekend the North Island and South Island Secondary Schools championships were held. They are the last major warm up before New Zealand school sport's biggest event in terms of participation numbers.
North Island Championships
There were 1891 students from 105 schools entered in 4548 seats in 1308 crews.
There were 50 A titles at stake and St Peter’s School, Cambridge won the Derbyshire Shield for Top overall School. St Peter’s won eight titles, edging Hamilton Boys’ High School by one.
Despite some challenging weather conditions on Friday, the St Peter's team raced well to make 29 A Finals, 9 B Finals, and 4 C Finals. Nearly all 77 teams made it through to a final. Overall St Peter's came home with 8 golds, 6 silvers, and 3 bronze medals, along with the Derbyshire Shield (61 points). Hamilton Boys' High School finished 2nd with 52 points and Westlake Boys' High School in third on 22 points.
Some highlights for St Peter's were the U18 Girls winning all three sculling events, with Beckie Leigh winning the Single, Beckie and Terri Wyatt winning the Double and Beckie, Margaret Wise, Clare Milne, Amelia Barrell and coxswain Brooke Houston winning the Quad. The Senior Girls also picked up a silver in the U18 and U17 Eights, U17 Quad and a second medal in the U18 Double with a bronze.
The U18 Boys also won the Single (Jason Nel) and Quad (Patrick Griffin, Jacques Balsom, Jason Nel, Harry Lynch, and coxswain Brooke Houston) and picked up bronze in the Double. Having both our U18 and U15 Boys Eights make the A Finals was a first for the school and great achievement.
There were 24 different winners, however Hamilton schools were very dominant, with St Paul’s Collegiate, St John’s Hamilton and Waikato Diocesan also claiming honours which meant Hamilton schools accounted for just under half of all the medals won. With Maadi Cup on their ‘doorstep’ this year at Lake Karapiro they will be the schools to beat.
Hamilton Boys’ High School defeated Auckland Grammar School by four seconds in the U18 coxed eight with Westlake Boys’ a distant third. Hamilton was second to Christ’s College at Maadi last year.
Waikato Diocesan School for Girls won the U18 girls coxed eight by four seconds over St Peter’s School, Cambridge. This was a switch of positions from their Maddi Cup result last year.
Other highlights included Evan Williams’ five second victory in the U17 single sculls. The Takapuna Grammar School student pulled clear towards the finish.
Holly Chaafe (Mount Albert Grammar School) pipped Parekura Kellow (Wentworth College) in a thrilling girls equivalent while Auckland Grammar School beat Hamilton Boys’ in the U17 coxed eight.
North Island Secondary School Championships full results: http://rowit.nz/niss2019/results
South Island Championships
Christchurch Boys’ High School was the dominant player in the Points Bell winning the title by a smashing 27 points over Rangi Ruru Girls’ School with St Andrew’s College in third.
There were 39 schools that earned a point in the overall standings, with Christchurch BHS winning eight events.
Scott Shackleton was perhaps the star of the regatta. He won a personal haul of four gold medals in the U17 single sculls, U17 coxed four and eight and the U18 coxed eight.
Christchurch BHS smashed defending Maddi Cup champions Christ’s College by 15 seconds in the U18 coxed eight, with St Bede’s a further four seconds adrift.
St Margaret’s College foiled a late charge by Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in the girls coxed eight, but enjoyed a great meeting with four gold medals and a numbers of podium placings.
Ben Mason from Otago Boys’ High School is another name to watch. Mason beat teammate Thomas Ryan by a second in the U18 single sculls and then the pair teamed up to win the double sculls. Mason also tasted success in the U18 coxed quad sculls.
There were 1057 competitiors at the SISS regatta on Lake Ruataniwha in 50 events.
South Island Secondary School Championships full results: http://rowit.nz/siss2019/results
Read our story about Craighead Diocesan School's rowing squad and interview with long-serving head coach Dean Milne HERE
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