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School sprinters clash

The season of national sprint regattas is drawing to a close this weekend with the South African Schools Sprint Championships taking place at Nagle Dam in KwaZulu-Natal from Friday until Sunday.

This is the third weekend in a row of sprint racing at the venue. The junior paddlers have been involved in all of them, and the elite Under-18’s will have to pick themselves up for one last big effort before shifting their focus to the Bochum regatta in June.

The Schools Sprint Championships will see over 200 paddlers from about 50 schools from all over the country test their mettle against each other over three crowded days of K1 and K2 racing. Using the same format as last weekend’s SA Sprint Championships, the 1000m races will be held on the first day, with the 500m races on Saturday and the 200m races on Sunday. Each day will culminate in a medal ceremony.

The regatta also sees entrants in the Guppy Under-10 class, whose small bodies in wide boats makes for a great spectacle. The other age groups being raced are U-12, U-14, U-16 and U-18.

South African schools have long been a hotbed of sporting talent, and canoeing is no different. Many schools have invested heavily in canoeing programs, with popular schools leagues being run in many of the provinces. KwaZulu-Natal has led the way in this respect, and this has translated to regular success at past SA Schools events.

Pietermaritzburg’s Epworth and Maritzburg College are the defending champions in the Girls and Boys categories, and both schools will again be sending some outstanding young paddlers to the regatta. Many of Epworth’s girls have raced successfully in this event before, and the school will be relying on the experience of Tamika Haw, Lauren Canham, Jenna Starr and Brittany Peterson for success. However a number of excellent paddlers also finished school last year, and it will be interesting to see whether Epworth will be as dominant as before.

Likewise Maritzburg College will look to Gregor Martin, Matthew Shaw and Blaine Beresford to secure their Boys High School title. Michaelhouse and Gauteng’s Parktown Boys High are likely to provide their stiffest competition.

Linden’s Martin van den Bergh will once again tussle Stu MacLaren from Michaelhouse for the U18 Victor Ludorum title, while the girl’s categories will arguably be the most hotly contested. Esti van Tonder from Afrikaanse Hoerskool vir Meisies will face-off against fellow Gauteng sprinter Kerry Malan from Parktown for the U18 Victrix Ludorum. Their equal in speed, but an age group below are St John’s Emma Horner and Melanie van Niekerk from Jan van Niekerk, who will be vying for the U16 award.

Bridgehouse have enjoyed regular success in the Co-Ed category, and will be hoping for more dominance from Daniel Buys, Michael-Lee Farringer and Daniel Pretorius. Also out to defend their school Guppy victories last year will be The Wykeham Collegiate in the U10 Girls and Paulus Joubert in the Boys.

Racing starts from 8am with the medal ceremony scheduled to take place each day at 17:30.