Hartpury in search for future rowing stars
HARTPURY College's rowing programme is on a drive to seek out the best new rowing talents to follow in the footsteps of its successful class of 2013.
The programme, run in partnership with the GB Rowing Start Talent Identification scheme, claimed its maiden national gold medal back in April; following up with two more in quick succession before the season was over.
And now, they're looking to recruit a new raft of male and female rowers, aged 14-16, to continue the success.
Candidates must be a minimum of 178cm for girls and 188cm for boys, and although no previous experience is necessary, the scheme is aimed at identifying potential Olympic talent.
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The latest addition to Hartpury's elite sport development programmes was described three years ago as a leap in to the dark by National Start Manager, Steve Gunn, but is now showing every sign of success.
Having already produced a junior GB International (Sarah Bonar), the programme had its best season to date with three national medals, their first individual men's podium and further international representation.
"We set ourselves a number of aims when we began the programme back in 2010, and although we've been successful in the past, this last year was on an entirely new level," programme manager Tom Pattichis (inset) said.
"I remember Steve [Gunn] describing this as something new; which it definitely was, but we've shown over the course of the last three years that this is a model that works."
Five students in particular: Chloe Brew (A Levels, Plymouth), Holly Stead (A Levels, Plymouth), Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne (A Levels, Hereford), Jess Newson (BTEC Sports Coaching, St. Austell) and Lauren Williams (A Level graduate, Cirencester) were at the forefront of Hartpury's success. The five rowers were instrumental in winning five golds over the course of the season, including the college's first national gold medal.
On their first national win, in the National Schools Regatta, Tom said, "It was an unbelievable display of strength and mental toughness for the girls to push through and win after their difficult start. It shows how far the programme has come in a short space of time." The girl's recovered from a poor start to power through the field, which contained some of the best Under-18 rowers in the country, to eventually win by three seconds. Success followed the girls with further victories at Women's Henley and the British Rowing Championships.
"It's an amazing feeling to pick up your first gold!" Brew said.
"We've worked so hard over the last year to get to this point and it's paid off. The programme has only been running for a short amount of time as well, so it's great for us to be winning in national competitions so quickly."
The programme remains the only one of its kind in the Start group with its focus solely on the development of rowers ages 16 to 18.
An innovative approach also sees the start programme linked in directly with the college, allowing rowers to combine their training with continued academic development.
"Most other centres are based around clubs or universities, but we're slightly different. We allow junior rowers to take up the opportunity of training and studying before they're 18 and can go to university, for example."
The 2012-13 season also saw wins for Alex Boughey in the women's novice single sculls and Joe Barnes in the men's junior single sculls, who both only began rowing 12 months ago.
The season was perfectly rounded off as the four person crew of Brew, Hodgkins-Byrne, Stead and Newson, representing England, picked up gold at the Home International Regatta, back at the scene of their first national victory, Nottingham.
Williams' and Elenor Gaskin's Welsh representation at the end-of-season event meant Hartpury had six current or former students competing internationally. The programme began with just four students, including international junior Bonar, but has since expanded to accommodate over twenty rowers across two, elite and elite development, programmes.
An excellent relationship with nearby Gloucester Rowing Club allows the programme to function with ease through use of their facilities and open stretch of water.