As the fog lifts on a Sunday morning in Cambridge, there is a noticeable difference in the small town. Today marks the final day before the 2023 Aon Maadi Regatta, and soon 2000+ high school rowers will take to the main street to fly their school flag with pride at the annual Aon Maadi Regatta parade. A total of 2267 rowers from 113 schools across the country have descended upon the mighty Waikato, making it the second biggest New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing regatta on record, and a sense of excitement can be felt in all corners of the town.
Racing is due to start at 8am on Monday 27 March with one of the biggest events on the programme taking opening honours: the boys under 17 single. This event, along with the girls under 17 single, has a full field of 51 competitors, meaning seven heats will battle down the course in order to be on the right side of a cut throat progression. Wakatipu High School’s Marley King-Smith will be one to watch in the boys under 17 single after taking out the under 17 and under 18 single at the Meridian South Island Secondary School Championships, along with the under 18 double and under 18 quad. However, Jack Whitcombe from St Peter’s College Auckland will be trying to get in the way of Marley’s winning streak after taking home the top spot in the boys under 17 single at Aon North Island Secondary Schools Rowing Championships. On the girls’ side of the draw, local favourites Cambridge High School were dominant in the under 17 sculling events, winning the single, double and quad at Aon North Island Secondary Schools Rowing Championships.
Other crews to keep an eye on throughout the week are the St Bedes College under 18 sweepers. Coached by the highly experienced Dale Maher, these crews will be a force to be reckoned with, as they proved at the Meridian South Island Secondary Schools Rowing Championships, by winning every boys under 18 sweep event. Sacred Heart College Auckland will be St Bedes’ main rivals in the under 18 small boats, and Hamilton Boys High School will be pushing for top spot in the under 18 eight.
The Wallis twins of Rangi Ruru Girls’ School looked unstoppable in the girls under 18 pair at the Meridian South Island Secondary Schools Rowing Championships coming away with top honours, followed closely by their school mates Nicole Vance and Georgie Bethell. These two pairs then teamed up for the under 18 coxed four and unsurprisingly walked away with the gold, as well as taking out the under 18 eight. There is no doubt the twins will be gunning for the trifecta of under 18 2-, Dawn Cup and Levin Jubilee Cup at the 2023 Aon Maadi Regatta, but Wellington Girls College rowers Zola Kemp and Olivia Mazey were the North Island's top duo winning the under 18 pair and coxed four.
Other notable crews to look out for during the big week of racing are Shirley Boys High School’s under 15 rowers, Cashmere High School’s girls under 16 crews, the under 15 and under 16 girls scullers from Iona College, and Timaru Boys High Schools under 16 scullers.
School rowing in New Zealand is currently flooded with talent so this could be a long piece. Instead we will leave you with the wise words of Jackie Kiddle, New Zealand and World Champion lightweight rower, from this morning’s Maadi Regatta parade; “Enjoy racing, cheer on your friends and teammates, eat lots of lasagne, drink more water than you think is needed, and use your sunscreen. I challenge you to make a new friend, be the best you can be on and off the water and have fun.” Because at the end of the day, the Aon Maadi Regatta will provide you with some of the best memories from your time at high school.