The Under 19 motto’s always been no one gets left behind. Surprise selections prove it’s true.
New Zealand Under 19 Men's Eight coach Dale Maher is having a chat to his crew when women's reserve Milly Farrell glides past in the single.
He says something like, “You wouldn’t think she’s been rowing that boat for only few days, would you?”
That was back at the start of June, and we were sitting in the coach boat just past the pylons at Lake Karāpiro.
It’s now mid-July and this time S&C coach Ryan Trent has a coach boat stationed down at the finish line as Winter Series racing is wrapping up.
It’s turning out to be quite a week for fast-learners in the single scull.
On the Monday, Thomas Mackintosh raced the A-final at World Cup III after just eight weeks in the boat. The bronze-medal effort left him nine seconds adrift of winner Ollie Zeidler from Germany and highlighted the potential he has for results at the World Champs in September and, should he make it, the Paris Olympics next year.
TOM MACKINTOSH (RIGHT) WITH WINNER OLLIE ZEIDLER FROM GERMANY (CENTRE) AND SVERRI NIELSEN FROM DENMARK (LEFT). PHOTO: ART OF ROWING.
MILLY FARRELL (LEFT) WITH COACH ANNA DeLONG (RIGHT). MILLY IS NOW GOING TO BE COMPETING IN THE WOMEN'S SINGLE AT WORLD ROWING U19 Championships in paris. Photo: Picture Show Ltd
Days on and Milly Farrell also proves what a quick learner she is, winning the confidence of the coaches and selection team that she’s good enough to row the Women's Single on that Olympic course in Paris at the Under-19 World Championships in less than a fortnight.
“I was quite nervous to even be racing some of the Elites and 23s,” says Milly. “But I've been given a bit of a handicap, a bit of a head start on them, so having to hold them off has been quite cool, but starting side by side in Paris will be a bit new. So, yeah, I'm not sure, we'll see.”
She talked it over with her parents and coaches and their message was clear. Back yourself.
After being quietly told of her selection she walked into the gym at Rowing NZ to be mobbed by the girls in the eight.
“I think it's dedication to the training, to understanding what it means to be in the team,” says selector Kirsty Dunhill. "It's her skill and ability but also probably her mental toughness that has made this happen. Her progress has been rapid.”
It’s the same for Logan Spencer and Charlie Poulter in the Men's Pair, who’ve also been given the green light to race the main event.
Milly’s progress was even more impressive considering she spent two weeks in the Girls’ Eight covering for an injury.
She knows first-hand the influence Rangi Ruru has on the girls’ age-group at the moment. She was in the St Margaret’s boat that finished 3rd at Maadi behind the Rangi Ruru one-two in the Levin Jubilee Cup.
Georgie Bethell and Nicole Vance have been a big part of that Rangi Ruru success. They’ve both been in the school’s three-peat eight and are back for their second year in the Under 19 Eight after finishing 5th in 2022.
“Last year everything was new to us and no one in the boat had been to worlds before,” says Nicole. “It took time for us to learn everything and get on to what we actually needed to do.”
Prog times from Winter Series have been promising and coach Logan Keys must still believe there’s speed to find because they haven’t quite settled on seating order or rig just yet.
U19 Women's eight - tandem rig setup.
But the fact that they’re seated like they are above at the moment indicates the four from Rangi Ruru and four from Wellington are blending well.
U19 Women's Eight
Cox: Annabel Wynn-Williams (RR)
Stroke: Georgie Bethell (RR)
7: Nicole Vance (RR)
6: Emma Bagrie (WGTN)
5: Alice Wallis (RR)
4: Nico Daly (WGTN)
3: Phoebe Wallis (RR)
2: Zola Kemp (WGTN)
1: Kate Barham (WGTN)
One overriding thing has stayed the same. Georgie in stroke seat.
“I just like the feeling of knowing everyone else is behind me, going with me,” says Georgie. “You'd think you'd feel alone when you're up there but you don't. [You] feel the power behind you and when you feel the boat pick up it's the best feeling. Sometimes you feel like you're flying. I just love it.”
That’s the way Nicole talks about rowing in seven seat. Nicole sometimes gets mistaken for another role in the boat due to her small frame.
“Well, I have been asked a couple of times if I am the coxswain. But I don't mind being small...I feel like it's an advantage in some way...because I'm really able to help with the boat pick up. Just like being a little pocket rocket.”
Georgie and Nicole have been using what they learned last year to help the Wellington girls, all on their first overseas tour.
“We'll talk about how the standard when you're at worlds of all the crews out there is just crazy,” says Georgie. “If you're not hitting it right from the start, you get left behind.”
FULL U19 SQUAD. PHOTO: PICTURE SHOW LTD.
The biggest test for the Men's Quad has been how to turn four successful single scullers into a crew that can row with a single purpose.
Marley King-Smith, Maxim Ericson and Justin Smyth were 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Under 18 single at Aon Maadi Regatta, Jack Clark was 3rd in the Club Single at Nationals.
“We were quite individualistic on our stroke,” says Marley, “I think the biggest challenge for us has just been coming together and combining all our little different knick-knacks to just rowing as one big single instead.”
Illness has meant they haven’t always been able to row the quad but their final two races over two days has them in a good frame of mind.
“We weren't so happy with yesterday," says Jack. “There was just something missing out of the boat. We didn't quite figure it out, but today we obviously found it. We just switched on a little bit more in terms of intensity. We just got that fire back, you know, a bit of mongrel.”
The mongrel showed as they held off the Men's Eight for most of the way down the 2000m.
The men have really enjoyed the detailed eye that coach Martin Simoncelli brings to the boat.
“He’s been amazing, just really skillful coaching on all of our parts,” says Marley.
“He's very, very technical,” says Jack. “But also he knows the value of intent and power. He’s very good at combining those.”
They can’t wait to see how it holds together under the pressure and excitement of racing in Paris.
“Our power potential is just, it's definitely really up there,” says Marley. “Against all the other crews that I think we're going to be racing against...we've got giant Maxim in the two seat, who's just a weapon, and Justin, who's got quads like Robbie Manson. It’s pretty wicked.”
U19 Men's quad: Justin Smyth, Maxim Ericson, Marley King-Smith, Jack Clark. Photo: Picture Show Ltd.
Like the other crews, the Men's Eight is feeling the weight of the workload and looking forward to tapering off and building into peak race mode.
One row in the past couple of weeks stands out: “When we got the white rowsuits for the first time and put them on,” says four seat Ollie Leach. “We were all fully on to it. I also think it was the first time we got the force gates on the boat.”
“It was just a super clean row,” says Ollie. “I think everyone was trying to push it hard and put good numbers out.”
“Yeah, keeps everyone honest,” says bowman Josh Syme. “It's good.”
Josh is also trying to keep everyone honest from the seat where you can see...everything.
“Bit different to the stern or the middle of the boat where I'm used to,” says the 2022 Maadi Cup winner. “Just trying to row nicely, nice and long, and setting rhythm for the boys.”
“Bark at the boys too,” says Ollie. “Likes to open his mouth! Keeps us honest with our catches.”
“Yeah, well I try to keep on top of them,” says Josh.
The men are all about getting the best out of each other.
“The trick to making an eight go fast is everyone rowing together,” says Josh. “Getting boys from different schools and different backgrounds, different clubs, trying to adapt different techniques and styles and getting one good rhythm going.”
It’s Josh’s first time in the Under 19s but he has had a taste of top age-group international sport after being part of the Hamilton Boys’ High School First XV that won the World Schools Festival tournament in Thailand last December.
Ollie’s in his second year with the Under 19s after rowing the Quad last year. He knows this eight can motor, but just how fast it can go is the big unknown.
“It's the whole reason we're doing it all, just to see where we sit...put your best race out there and hope it's enough.”
Picture Show Ltd. U19 MEn's eight.
Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446.