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Strong contingent for the Maadi

Gisborne schools together make up one of the strongest Maadi Cup contingents from this district in years.

The New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Regatta — commonly known as the Maadi Cup after the trophy for the premier event, the under-18 boys’ eights — starts today at Lake Karapiro.

Three years ago, Gisborne’s representation at the regatta was one rower.

This year, Gisborne has 27 rowers at the Maadi Cup. They come from Gisborne Boys’ and Gisborne Girls’ high schools, and Campion College.

Reputed to be the largest school sporting event in the Southern Hemisphere, the Maadi Cup is New Zealand’s largest rowing regatta.

Last year, 2283 competitors from 120 schools took part.

As many as 10,000 spectators might watch from the bank on finals day.

Some events will have over 70 crews entered, and rowers might have to contest heats, repechages, quarterfinals and semifinals to reach the finals.

The school squads are coached by Alex Hyland and Luke Jenkins, both former Boys’ High students who competed at Maadi Cup regattas.

The Boys’ High contingent is among the strongest the school has sent to the Maadi Cup.

At the North Island Secondary Schools Championships this month, the u16 double scull combination of Oscar Ruston and Cody Wright won the gold medal by two seconds. With the certain influx of strong South Island crews at Maadi Cup, nothing is guaranteed, but this could be Gisborne’s strongest medal prospect at the regatta.

Ruston and Wright combine again in the u16 coxed quad crew with Sacha Dewancker, Eliarn Destounis and coxswain Harry Naske. This combination sneaked past St Peter’s College at the North Island secondary schools champs to earn a silver medal, and will be worth watching.

In the u16 single scull event, Dewancker is a strong prospect. He made his debut single scull appearance two weeks ago at the North Island schools champs and finished third in the A Final.

Three other Boys’ High u17 crews are also contenders — the coxed quad, the double scull and the pair have all performed strongly and could be dangerous.

Gisborne Girls’ High School could benefit from the rule that rowers of any age in their first year of competition are able to compete in novice u18 categories.

The Girls’ High novice u18 coxed quad (Leah Scholefield, Caitlin Bregmen, Sabine Lapointe, Jemma Honey and cox Jessica Wright) are an older crew in this event and their size and physicality will be an advantage.

They have shown some exciting form. At the North Island schools champs, they won bronze, but some of their heat performances suggested they might be capable of more. Anything can happen in the novice categories.

The u16 double scull combination of Phoebe Naske and Hannah Veitch have improved markedly since last season, and have qualified for the A Final at every regatta this year.

Leah Scholefield and Caitlin Bregmen were seventh in the novice u18 double scull A Final at the North Island schools regatta and are an outside medal chance.

Top prospects from Campion College are the novice crew of David Levy and Ben Blakeman, who won the B Final of this event at the North Island schools champs and have a lot of potential for further improvement.