And just like that, the 2023 Aon Maadi Regatta comes to a close. 2,267 rowers pulled on their school colours and gave it their all in 430 races for 52 events. 156 medals were spread over 49 schools. And 28 different schools were crowned national secondary schools' champions.
After a beautiful start to the day, the skies opened, and our Saturday finalists got treated to incredibly wet conditions. That did not dampen spirits and the racing remained just as exciting as it has all week.
The first race of the day was the girls under 16 coxed quad which saw a dominant Cashmere High School push out at the beginning of the race and never look back. Poppy Wyndham, Abbie Higgins, Eliza O’Meagher, Thea Murdie, and coxswain Meg Macdonald were too strong for the rest of the field and crossed the line a comfortable four seconds ahead of St Paul's Collegiate in second, and Marian College in third.
Elsie Talbolt from Craighead Diocesan took an early lead in the girls under 18 single, looking strong moving through the halfway mark with clear water over her competitors. However it was St Andrews College sculler Freddy Toddhunter who kept her cool and with a long and relaxed stroke managed to power her way to the front of the race over the second 1000m. Harriet Thompson from Otago Girls High School went with the St Andrews sculler and put up a great fight over the last 200m, but Toddhunter held on to take the gold, Thompson in silver and Talbolt in bronze.
South Island favourite Marley King-Smith reigned supreme in the boys under 18 single after an exceptional season. The red laszlo boat that Marley won last year in the under 17 single held the lead from the buzzer, but Hilcrest High Schools Justin Smyth and Wellington Colleges Maxim Ericson never let the Wakatipu sculler too far out of their sights. Ericson threw everything at the final 200m to put the pressure on King-Smith, but eventually ran out of water. King-Smith crossed the line in 7:09.34, Ericson in 7:10.12, and Smyth finished third in 7:13.61.
The girls under 18 novice quad saw just 15 seconds separate all eight crews in the A final. But it was Villa Maria College of Christchurch that made the most of the tail wind and kept their bow in front when it mattered most, despite a strong push from Whanganui High School 2 who crossed in 2nd place, followed by their school mates, Whanganui High School 1 who followed in 3rd place.
As the day went on, a swift tail wind blew down the course making for some fast conditions. By the time the final two events rolled around, the dias flags were flying in full force. The girls under 18 coxed eight was first up with St Margarets College 2, Waikato Diocesan, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School 2, Rangi Ruru Girls School 1, Christchurch Girls High School, Marlborough Girls College, St Margarets College 1, and Westlake Girls High School lining up to take out the prestigious Levin Jubilee Cup. It was no surprise when Rangi Ruru 1 took control of the race straight from the start, but the Rangi Ruru Girls 2 crew was hot on their tails with Christchurch Girls High School alongside. As Rangi 1 pushed out to a commanding lead, Rangi 2 showed their grit and determination to ensure a gold + silver finish for the school, and they did just that. Holding off a fast-finishing St Margarets College, Rangi Ruru 1 crossed the line in first securing the under 18 trifecta (pair, four, eight) as well as adding an 18th title to their impressive history in the event. Rangi Ruru 2 took silver, with St Margarets crossing in third place.
The Maadi Cup was on the line in the boys under 18 coxed eight with Sacred Heart Auckland, Westlake Boys High School, Hamilton Boys High School, Kings College, Christchurch Boys High School, Christs’ College and St Peters Auckland fighting for top spot. South Island Secondary Schools champions St Bede's have only won this event once back in 1991. North Island Secondary Schools champions were Hamilton Boys High School who have an incredible history in the event, winning it 11 times before. It was Christs’ College who got out to a flying start and had two seats over the rest of the field coming through the first 500m. But when the crews got into their work, St Bede's College showed their class and pushed into first place taking Hamilton Boys High School with them. The two battled it out with St Bede's holding a seat until 200m to go when Hamilton Boys put the throttle down and pulled up level. Both crews crossed the line on the serge of the boat, leaving everyone wondering who would be crowned Maadi Cup champions. After a gruelling wait, premature celebrations and commiseration hugs, St Bedes College were gobsmacked to see the official result had them crossing the line just 0.06 seconds before Hamilton Boys High School meaning they would hold the Maadi Cup above their heads for the first time since 1991, and only the second time in the schools history. The crew also set a new Aon Maadi Cup record of 5:42.17. Westlake Boys High School crossed the line in third after holding off a strong Christs’ College crew.
Rounding off a fantastic week of racing, Rangi Ruru Girls School were presented with the Star Trophy for best overall school, followed by St Bedes in second and St Margarets in third.
The Executive trophy for best sweep oar school went to Rangi Ruru Girls School, followed by St Margarets College in second and St Bedes College in third.
The Presidents Scull for best sculling school went to Wakatipu High School, with Cashmere High School in second and Timaru Boys High School in third.
Thank you for joining us for six incredible days of racing. As always, we need to thank the team at Aon. They have been a major partner to Rowing NZ for over 18 years, and the Aon Maadi Regatta continues to be proudly sponsored by Aon.
The Aon Maadi Regatta remains the biggest secondary schools sporting event in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere and Rowing NZ are proud to work alongside Aon to bring it to life each year.