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"It was pretty emotional. The First XV and pipe band met us at the airport on Sunday to perform a haka and yesterday at Assembly the entire school did the haka. It's pretty special to win Maadi for the first time in our 100th year." Ben Taylor acclaims of St. Andrew's College’s (STAC) rowing success.
The likelihood of such a spectacular outcome appeared unlikely until only recently Taylor admits.
"Last year we made the final which was our goal, but the quality of the North Island boats was a big wake up call. We started this season a bit ropey, but winning the South Island champs and finishing second to Hawke's Bay at club Nationals was a huge step forward for us," he says.
A month before the regatta St. Andrew's was training 11 times a week. The morning sessions on the Avon River where all the leading Christchurch contenders, including defending champions Christ's College, assembled were particularly beneficial.
"We would start at 7:30am and miss the first two periods of school. Generally we would concentrate on our own things, but there was a bit of rivalry and we had a good relationship with the Christchurch Boys' crew." Taylor reveals.
Taylor is the stroke of the boat, determining the timing of the paddlers and communicating regularly with the coxswain. St. Andrew's plan was clear and well rehearsed before the race and the weather conditions proved favourable at Lake Karapiro.
"There was a little head wind which would favour the heavier crews of which we were one. Our strategy was to try and get a good start and win each 500 metres. We managed to win the first 500 which was the best possible start." Taylor explains.
Predictably Christ's rallied and St. Andrew's fell a canvas behind with 600-metres to go. With 300-metres left it was time to make a move. Taylor captures the climax.
"We had no choice but to up the stroke rating to full speed. It was a really close race. Only five seconds separated the first five boats. We edged Christ's College and Hamilton Boys' in third."
In addition to winning the Maadi Cup, Ben was stroke on the Under-18 coxless fours winning boat. For the first time in 34 years St. Andrew's won the prestigious Springbok Shield and Ben emulated his father Andrew Taylor in winning that prize.
"That was a real special win for us because we have been together our whole time at school. Dad is the reason I got into rowing so to do something he did is awesome." Taylor says.
In winter Taylor plays rugby and was a lock in the St. Andrew's First XV last year. His place in the 2017 team will be determined by his performance in the New Zealand Junior rowing trials. Rugby is another sport that has given Taylor a significant national trophy. He was involved in the St. Andrew's Development XV which won the Moascar Cup off Scots College by 20-10 in 2015.
"We found out about a month before the match we could be playing for the Moascar Cup. None of us really knew what it was until an Old Boy visited the school and explained its significance. We got pretty excited after that." Taylor recalls.
St. Andrew's managed to retain the Cup for two defences in 2016 before relinquishing it against Timaru Boys' High School in an ultimately disappointing season. Taylor is hopeful for brighter things.
"We've got all the forwards returning plus some good backs. Last year we lacked a bit of experience so I think we will be stronger." Taylor concludes.