Rowing or netball? Netball or rowing? Until recently, year 13 St Paul’s Collegiate School student Kate Littlejohn has juggled both at the same time to a high level.
But her recent selection in the New Zealand team for the Junior Rowing World Cup in Lithuania from 2-6 August means she is prioritising the water over the court over the next couple of months at least.
As well as rowing, Kate is one of New Zealand’s leading secondary school netballers, having been selected earlier this year in the NZSS netball squad and until recently - when she had to pull out - was in the Waikato Bay of Plenty Beko Development League squad.
“This year I have done the seasons backwards, I was playing netball through the summer and now I will be rowing though the netball season,” she told College Sport Media.
“I’m training for rowing at the moment. We go into camp on 28 May at Karapiro and then start preparing for the Junior World Cup.”
Kate will be in the Junior Women’s Coxless Four in Lithuania. Kate is in the stroke seat setting the tempo and the pace with her St Paul’s Collegiate teammate Grace Watson, Kate Haines from Auckland Dio, and Grace Loveridge from Christchurch Girls’ High School all behind her.
Kate, who started rowing in year 10 and was sculling last season, qualified for the Junior World Cup following trials and after a fantastic Maadi Cup as part of the St Paul’s Girls U18 pair, the Girls U18 four and the Girls U18 eight.
“We won the four and won bronzes in both the pair and the eight.” Grace, who is also in the NZSS netball squad, was Kate’s partner in the pair and also in all three boats.
St Paul’s punched well above their weight at the Maadi Cup.
“The little story behind that is that St Paul’s has a very small rowing squad, We only have 13 rowers, four of whom are novices [first season rowers], so for us to have an eight in the pinnacle event and then to medal is pretty cool.”
The winning team that won the coxed four Dawn Cup at Maadi Cup was Kate, Grace, Olivia Warlow, Jasmine Fountaine and cox Victoria Chanwai. They beat second placed Nelson School for Girls by over 3 seconds, with 2016 winners Diocesan School for Girls in third. James Stevenson was the Dawn Cup-winning St Paul's coach, while Nick Barton was the St Paul's head coach and also coaches the Junior World Cup coxless four crew.
The NSSS netball team gets named in July, following the NZ U17 Championships. Kate said she has still made herself available despite not being in a position to put herself in front of the selectors.
“When we return from Lithuania I’ll be concentrating on netball again and hopefully help my school team qualify for the NZSS Netball Championships for the first time.”
Last year St Paul’s finished ninth at the Upper North Island Championships, the top six qualifying for the nationals.
“That was the highest that St Paul’s has finished. It was a bit disappointing but we had a tough draw playing three of the top four teams, Epsom Girls’ Grammar School, Rotorua Girls’ High School and Saint Kentigern College.”
They only lost to St Kent’s by two goals, who went on to win the national title in Lower Hutt in October.
“This year we have relatively the same team, so things are looking promising.”
Kate’s position is goal defence/goal keep, while Grace is at the other end of the court at goal attack/goal shoot.
How do the two sports relate to each other?
“The team aspect is huge in both sports. I find that particularly in rowing where you have to work together in order to move the boat fast. In netball there is an aspect of it that is individual like shooting the goals or chasing the intercepts, but in rowing you must work as a team to win.”
Do the two sports complement each other in training?
“I found that because I was doing mostly netball throughout the recent rowing season I had to learn to cross train. So effectively it’s the netball training that got me now to where I am in rowing.”
Academically, Kate prefers the science and maths subjects in class. She isn’t sure of what she’s going to be doing next year when she finishes school, but there’s a fairly good chance much of her time will be spent either on the water or on the court.
To help fund their trip to Lithuania, Kate and Grace have set up a Givealittle fundraising page at: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/graceandkate
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