YOUNGSTERS from Queen Elizabeth High School Rowing Club have enjoyed success both on the water, and behind closed doors.

Members of the Hexham-based club excelled at the Northumberland Indoor Rowing Championships in Cambois, before returning to the north Northumbrian town two days later for the Junior Northern Region Selection Trials.

The indoor championship is a recognised school sports event, organised by British Rowing in conjunction with Northumberland Sport, and is open to students from Year 7 to sixth form.

It took place at Cambois Rowing Club, where there were enough rowing machines to accommodate up to 12 athletes at a time.

Most races were timed with Year 7 racing over two minutes and increasing by one minute for each age group, with Year 11 competitors racing over six minutes. Sixth formers raced on a different format, over 2,000 metres.

Racing was close, fast and furious with positions constantly changing over the timed races. The loud vocal support from the sidelines filled the Cambois clubhouse and encouraged athletes to produce outstanding results.

QEHS had 25 students participating and they achieved superb results with four students achieving above the British Rowing gold medal standard - Dan Jones (gold), Tom Mawson (silver) in the sixth form boys race; Aiden Wright (gold) in the Year 11 boys’ category, and Hayley Hannant (gold) in the Year 11 girls’ race.

There were a further eight medallists in the individual races with Megan Coldwell and Josie Fergusson tying for second place with 984m in the Year 9 girls’ event.

Other medals included Robert Collen (gold) and Christian Ryan (silver) in the Year 10 boys’ race, Hannah Bowman (silver) in the Year 10 girls’ event, Archie Stewart (silver) in the Year 11 boys’ race, Nicole Manning (Bronze) Year 11 girls’ race, and Holly Nixon (silver) in the sixth form girls’ event.

Age group relays also took place, with each team consisting of two boys and two girls. These events were designed to provide a little light relief after the intense individual races, but when you put four competitive athletes in a team you create a group capable of moving mountains.

QEHS endeavoured to create teams from those who did not achieve individual medals. The Hexham youngsters enjoy this activity in training, so it was no surprise that they achieved impressive results - silver at Year 9, and gold at Year 10, 11 and sixth form.

From this event, the athletes in the top four places in each age category were selected to represent Northumberland in the Northern Region Championships at Durham University on March 5. QEHS had 16 athletes selected to represent the county.

The Junior Northern Region Team selection event saw many clubs from areas between Teesside and Berwick descend on Cambois, with rowers aiming for selection to represent the North at a national event in Peterborough, in April.

QEHS entered 65 rowers in 23 different crews at the event.

For Queen Elizabeth’s Pauline Higgins, who is also the northern team manager and selector, it is the first real opportunity to assess the strength of junior rowing across the region, with the target of creating a team of 85 rowers to take on the southern regions.

Three QEHS crews were selected at the end of the time trials.

Twelve months earlier, the J15 boys failed to gain selection by 0.9 seconds but this year there was no doubt as the crew of Christian Ryan, Robert Collen, Ben Archer and Will Dyer, coxed by Ben Ryrie, were the top QEHS crew of the day, winning both their events by over 12 seconds.

They now have the difficult task of entering either the coxed quad, or coxed four event, with Pauline as a crew can only be selected in one category at Peterborough.

The recently formed J16 girls’ crew of Hayley Hannant, Nicole Manning, Grace Manning and Liv Milburn were defeated recently by St Leonard’s of Durham.

But last weekend, they stepped up their performance by turning a six second defeat into a one second victory over the St Leonard’s girls to take the honours and selection in the coxless quadruple scull event.

To ensure compliance with recommendations, QEHS rowers do not start sweep rowing until they are 15 years old. Therefore, the J15 girls coxed four of Fleur Forster, Freya McDermott, Daisy Christopher and Zara Holtham, coxed by Ellen Siddle, are still learning the new technical skills to be proficient in sweep rowing.

They had to record a time and produce a performance which would ensure their selection was to be seriously considered. Finishing just six seconds behind the second placed J15 boys’ crew, they hope that they have done enough to gain final selection.

There were many other outstanding performances, but in selection races only the winners can progress to the northern team.

The J14 crews who started rowing in October 2019 are still at the early stages of technical and racing development and were entered to give them further race experience.

Three of the J14 girls’ quadruple sculls finished within one second of each other, with a fourth crew just four seconds behind and all within striking distance of the winning crew from St Leonard’s, who have been rowing together for nearly two years.

Hexham’s J14 boys have a greater challenge to develop co-ordinated crew rowing and create performances which will get them closer to the winning Durham crew.

Not surprisingly, QEHS training was cancelled on Hexham’s Tyne Green to construct new racking, while several rowers came along to secure boats and ensure all equipment was kept safe from the raging River Tyne.

Fellow parents Julie Smith and Kerry Stith sacrificed their Sunday dinner to bring pork sandwiches and hot chocolates to Tyne Green, where members kept watch of the weather conditions.

The club’s Geoff Higgins said: “This was a further demonstration of the closeness of relationships within the QEHS Rowing family.

“We would like to thank all who helped especially Julie, Philip and Kerry.”