The Schools’ Head of the River 2015- Women’s Championship Eight

A nearly identical number of competitors to the 2014 race- a good omen?

To the preview…

Headington School Oxford A

The powerhouse of junior women’s rowing, Headington have to start as favourites. They’ve lost a few of the athletes that made last years eight so formidable while they’ve struggled with injury and illness over the winter. It’s been fairly low key so far- Isabel Lingard picked up the pennant at the Scullers Head while Headington fielded a winning eight at the Hampton Head in February. When I spoke with Ryan a while ago, he pointed to the threat from Henley and Lady Eleanor Holles but his crew surely have to take the favourite tag. The success that Headington have achieved over the past six years is the result of practical and efficient training methods that have been refined over Ryan’s tenure as Director of Rowing. Leading the pack out is also a huge advantage on the Tideway- getting caught up in traffic can cost you time and, occasionally, money. I don’t think their winning margin will be as resounding as last year but the Oxford school are still my favourites.

Henley Rowing Club

The duel between Henley and Headington is one which I think will permeate junior rowing for years to come. Henley have such a sensational squad and they’ll be eyeing the top prize available, as is the natural progression. A lot of the girls who are racing in this eight were scullers beforehand so it’s a big step up to compete- that said, the Sculler’s Great Eight took the win at the Head of the Charles so who’s to say Henley can’t either? I don’t think they’ve got the horsepower of Headington but they are often renowned for their technical proficiency. Henley are also starting behind crews that I believe they will be quicker than, which will cost them time. They finished seven seconds back on Headington at Hampton, which is the only direct comparison I have, yet they did notch one over Lady Eleanor Holles. I expect a podium finish from these girls.

Lady Eleanor Holles School

Only one entry from these girls, which suggests a smaller squad than in previous years. After a disappointing year in 2014, LEH are back on the scene with a convincing win at the Quintin Head and a good performance at Hampton, where they finished third. They also raced at the Hammersmith Head for time only- their J16 eight was only nine seconds back, which may lead to an amalgamation later in the year. Jonathan Cheeseman is starting to work his magic at the school and will be hoping to challenge Headington’s choke-hold on the Championship Girl’s Eight category. Can they do it this year? I don’t think they’ll have the fire-power in 2015- the squad is a good one undoubtedly and they’ll be aiming for a podium finish but I still make Headington favourites. Speaking of podium finishers…

Sir William Borlase Boat Club

Another regular at the top of the junior women’s tree, Borlase have achieved phenomenal success across gender and age ranges over the past three or four years. Coached by Harry Lyons and Robin Dowell, their girls haven’t raced much this year. They performed brilliantly to win the Junior Women’s Four at the Fours Head in November and raced to a sixth place at Hampton. The latter result wasn’t the greatest of performances but I think this crew will be stronger next week. They’ve got athletes like Kelsey Stoddart and Georgia Mulraine fighting the good fight and I think they’ll be a contender for the top five at the School’s Head.

St George’s College

After St George’s stunning silver medal at the National Schools’ Regatta last May, the rowing world turned to admire the crew in question. The Gannon sisters, of which Nuala Gannon raced in the JW4- at the 2015 Junior World Championships, are integral to driving this crew forward and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them mixing it up next week. This is something of a golden age for St George’s College boat club- their silver medal last year was backed up by a win in First Coxed Fours which stemmed from a stunning victory in First Eights the year before. Once again, I think these girls are just a contender for a high finish as opposed to a realistic winner.

The King’s School Chester A

King’s School Chester looked to have a very impressive unit this time last year, when they recorded victories at the Head of the Trent and the North of England Head. However, they finished a disappointing eighth at the School’s Head and never really returned to form. I think this year could be different- they had a brilliant WJ16 eight last year and, although they’ve lost a few athletes. the remnants of this crew will be a key part of the new look crew. A WJ184- from KSRC won at the Head of the Trent while the first eight was victorious at the North of England Head- see any recurring patterns here? In all honesty, I do think this crew will be strong.

Weybridge Rowing Club

A strange choice, but one that I think is justified. Weybridge had a very strong junior quad last year, which made the final at several major events. Their girls, including Leila Wheeldon and Megan Pickering, have continued to improve this year, finishing third in WJ4x at the Fours Head before Leila finished fifteenth at the February GB Trials. The top four athletes in the squad are very strong and I’m sure as to the speed of the remainder. However, a good eight only needs a few top rowers to drive it forward and Weybridge have that in their quad from last year.

Sir William Perkins School A

Another stalwart of the junior women’s scene, SWP will be looking to improve on last years 11th placed finish. They’ve got a fairly strong squad again this year although their intake is usually large. They raced to a seventh placed finish at Hampton but were only 0.2 seconds behind Sir William Borlase and 8 seconds off St George’s. They were victorious at the Head of the Trent and I think they’ll feature in the top ten, with an aim to propel themselves a little higher if they can.

Mentions also go to Yarm, who finished 0.3 seconds behind SWP at the Head of the Trent, Merion Mercer Academy A, who have made the trip from across the pond to race the Schools’ Head, St Edwards School, who have racked up some good results in the early season and Pangbourne College, who gained the talents of the Giambrone twins this season.

Good luck to all competitors!

JuniorRowingBlogger

I am the editor of a rapidly growing blog based around the junior rowing circuit within the UK. From launch in June 2013, the website has experienced vast growth in both its reader count and view count while the article range has expanded. I currently work with a team of 10 people, all of whom voluntarily write articles for the blog. In our first year, I looked to expand from the standard previews and reviews that had gained initial success to building relationships with clubs and conducting interviews. This move proved successful and we are currently exploring new routes to further improve our platform. The blog has led to involvement with Regatta Radio, Rowing & Regatta, Row 360 and British Rowing.