The triple-header of Sprint Canoeing weekends ended on Sunday with the SA Schools Sprint Championships at Nagle Dam, where talent factories Maritzburg College and Epworth comfortably confirmed their status as the country’s top paddling institutions.
Epworth won their fourth schools title in a row thanks to some top performances from Brittany Peterson, Jenna Starr and Bianca and Tamika Haw. Their strong squad of 16 girls were consistent without dominating any of the age groups. Likewise the nine Maritzburg College boys consistently raced into podium positions but rarely featured on the top step, Blaine Beresford, Gregor Martin and Dewald Hattingh scoring the most points for them.
Bridgehouse once again dominated the Junior and Senior Co-Ed section. Having won the Junior Co-Ed section for several years, those paddlers are filtering through to the Senior age groups and still achieving top results, while more talent from the Berg River Valley keeps on replenishing the Junior ranks. In the Junior Boys category, Merchiston took the school title, while The Wykeham Collegiate won the Girls category.
Friday and Sunday dished up ideal racing conditions, although the wind picked up in the afternoon, which meant the finals were run in choppy conditions with a tail wind. Saturday saw a thunderstorm disturb proceedings briefly, but it took nothing away from the excellent racing.
Individually, there was tough competition across all age groups. Linden’s powerhouse Under-18 national sprinter Martin van den Bergh took the Victor Ludorum Award ahead of Parktown Boys High’s Brandon van der Walt and St David’s Marists Brothers Murray Burgess. In the Under-18 Girls, Esti van Tonder from Afrikaanse Hoer Meisieskool won all her K1 races to edge out K2 partner Kerry Malan from Parktown and Lindsay Davis from Wykeham for the Victrix Ludorum award.
In the Under-16 category, Melanie van Niekerk from Jan van Riebeeck won the Victrix Ludorum title from Kingsway High’s Kerry Segal after her chief rival Emma Horner from St John’s DSG only raced in the 1,000m Friday. De La Salle’s brother and sister duo of Gavin and Kerry Shuter took the Under-16 Victor Ludorum and Under-14 Victrix Ludorum. Ruan Knoble from Point High School in the Western Cape was a close runner-up in the Boys Under-16 ahead of Maritzburg College’s Blaine Beresford.
There was drama in the Under-18 K2 200m as Gregor Martin and Frans Smit crossed the line first in a very close finish, but had forgotten to race with their 1kg weight, meaning their boat was disqualified for being underweight.
The weekend also saw a new trophy being donated to the interschools event ÔÇô the Chiazzari Family Trophy for Spirit. This was awarded to Epworth after the 5000m event, where a backmarker was beginning her last lap while most other girls were finishing, and the other Epworth girls decided to escort her on her final lap as a show of support.