Junior Head of the River

On 20 March our Senior School rowers shone at the Junior section (Years 8-9) of the annual Head of the River rowing regatta. Here, Head Coach Thomas Parker provides a colourful reflection of what was a really exciting and successful day for Ascham.

‘The mythical story of the Junior Head of the River Rowing Regatta started several weeks ago with the biggest, most sustained downpour in living memory. Every school was affected by this, but the Ascham Rowing program particularly so. Wolli Creek had been flooded and overrun and awash with stormwater. Debris flowed out and then back in again with each turn of the tide. We were unable to row for three weeks. Water sessions had to be substituted with land and fitness training, and the girls were getting sick of it. Even worse, with floodwater tickling lower rows and seats in the stadium, the Head of the River could no longer be held at the Sydney International Regatta Centre. The Rowing Association made a quick call to hold the competition at Iron Cove. This course is notoriously difficult to navigate, especially for schools such Ascham who do not train in those waters. There were very few buoys to mark the course. Winning would not be a forgone conclusion for even our fastest crews.

Sabrina Koczkar and Lucy Yabsley – Gold Medal:  Year 9 Double Scull
As has been customary, Ascham Top Guns Lucy and Sabrina laid the groundwork for the team. They started fast and led the field. They used PLC’s line of travel as an indication and guide for their own course. This worked well. They finished within the legal confines of the tiny finishing buoys. What a fine win for Lucy and Sabrina whose dominance remains. They will be headed to the National Titles next week.

Kitty Elias – Silver Medal: Year 9 Singles
Kitty, also known as ‘Super Kitty’,  had a strong start. Kitty rated high and fought valiantly. She held a good course, navigating smartly. A strong sculler from Model Farms High School challenged her all the way through the battle. Kitty took herself to the very limit of her capacity as an athlete. She is never one to complain. She is an active team member who always does her part in doing what is best for everyone. She did everything humanly possible as her legs burned through a wall of lactic acid. Her silver medal is an excellent result and very well deserved. Kitty will also be headed to the National Championships on Monday.

Isabelle Bugg and Ariel Knobelman – Gold Medal: Year 8 Doubles
‘Issy and Ariel always have the most tactical approach possible when racing. They spend hours talking and planning how they will start, when they will sprint and what action they will take in an emergency. Both girls have an exemplary work ethic. It served them very well this season as they had already won gold at IGSA. Ariel and Issy raced in much the same way as Lucy and Sabrina: a strong start, an early lead, holding it all the way to the finish. Congratulations, girls. The School is proud of your results and acknowledges your effort over the past year.

Ivy Smith and Anna Radzyminski – Silver Medal:  Year 8 Doubles
Anna and Ivy are our young veterans of rowing. They have rowed since the end of Year 6 and have trained consistently and with purpose. They have made the most of holiday rowing and have taken every spare session available. Their road to rowing success has been long and diligent and patient. I believe their silver medal win on Saturday is an outstanding result. Great work, girls. Ascham Special Forces!

Chloe Hitchens – Gold Medal: Year 8 Single Scull
Chloe had a strong start and after 300 metres, had about a one length lead over a group of scullers. Her rowing looked strong. It seemed almost certain that she would win her event. Then, something happened which triggered a series of unexpected circumstances. One of Chloe’s competitors capsized. This event sucked the resources of the empires and safety vessels as the girl overboard became the soul focus of the regatta officials. The race proceeded with no umpire. Chloe still looked good as she rocketed through the first 500 metres. Then slowly, she drifted off course. With no umpire to guide her, she was in danger of rowing outside the finishing buoys, potentially disqualifying her from winning the event. The race progressed and she drifted further away. We knew that even if Chloe could make the necessary course correction, she would have to cover a lot of extra distance to reign her boat in. Eventually, the umpire’s boat sped through the course. When he got within the vicinity of Chloe, we could see her making a drastic correction to her steering. Chloe had just been dealt a cruel set of cards. After working to such a strong lead, wayward navigation had cost Chloe a painful 50 metres. This miscalculation was solely a consequence of the ambiguity of the course and lack of visible markings.

Results were coming in slow. Ten minutes later it had become official. Ascham first. There was only 2.5 seconds in it. Through insanely hard work, Chloe Hitchens finished our regatta with a final gold medal.

Congratulations to all our Junior rowers on a spectacular Head of the River!’


4 Apr 2022

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