The boy's under-15 eights on the water of Lake Karapiro (foreground Wanganui Collegiate School, background Gisborne Boys High School; photo: Steve McArthur)
New Zealand's top secondary school rowers went head to head this weekend at the Aon North Island Championships at Lake Karapiro and the Meridian South Island Championships at Lake Ruataniwha, Twizel.
The regattas marked the final challenge before the prestigious Aon Maadi Cup, taking place from 27 th March - 1 April at Lake Karapiro.
A weekend of challenging weather didn't put off over 1800 young athletes from testing themselves on the waters of Lake Karapiro for the Aon North Island Secondary Schools Championships.
Despite persistent drizzle the final day of racing in the three day regatta went ahead as scheduled thanks to remarkably calm water.
Spectators were treated to plenty of spectacular racing with crews looking to assert their dominance ahead of the Aon Maadi Cup.
All eyes were on the under-18 boys and girls coxed eights, and they certainly didn't disappoint.
The boys under-18 coxed eight was the final event of the day and also one of the most spectacular. Previous Maadi Cup winners Hamilton Boys' High School made a bold move by putting their nose forward early in the race, but were caught by Westlake Boys' High School and Sacred Heart College (Auckland). With only 100 metres remaining the three boats were lined up but a superior sprint from Westlake scored them the gold, while Hamilton had to settle for silver and Sacred Heart snatched bronze.
Diocesan School for Girls were a favourite pick for the girls event having won the Levin Jubilee Cup at last year's Aon Maadi Cup and they backed it up with a superb victory three seconds clear of closest rivals Epsom Girls' Grammar and St Paul's Collegiate School.
Numerous events required photo finishes, such was the level of competition.
An eye-blink 0.1 seconds was all that separated gold medal winning Hamilton Boys' High School and silver medallists Auckland Grammar (1) in the boys' novice coxed eight event.
Meanwhile local rower Jason Nel claimed the crown in the largest event of the regatta, the boy's under-16 single sculls. The St Peter's School rower crossed the line with a clear water lead over fellow local Seth Hope of Cambridge High School and Thomas Hall of King's College.
Rowers in the south also faced a damp day of racing combined with decidedly autumnal air temperatures of around nine degrees at the Meridian South Island Secondary School Championships on Twizel's Lake Ruataniwha.
Just over one second was all that separated gold from bronze in the girls under-18 coxed eight event. Gold went to Rangi Ruru Girls' School with a time of 6:51.08, with Christchurch Girls' High School just a bowball behind in 6:51.52, and St Margaret's College taking bronze with 7:00.93.
St Andrew's College looked unmatchable in the boy's under-18 coxed eight, powering to gold over six seconds clear of defending Maadi Cup winners Christ's College (1) in silver, and Christchurch Boy's High School in third.
Ella Fry and Kate Cochrane of Southland Girls' High School took out the gold medal in the largest event of the regatta, the girl's under 16 double sculls. The duo romped to finish over six seconds ahead of silver medallists Peta McKay and Greer Porter of Mt Aspiring College, and bronze medallists Mollie Gibson and Emma Stagg of Ashburton College.
Schools will now finalise their entries for the Aon Maadi Cup taking place in just over two weeks' time.
Full results from the weekend's regattas can be found online at rowit.co.nz