Brylee Deacon is in a race against time.
Planting an oar on the pontoon, she lifts herself out of her boat, grabs a water bottle, swigs deeply and begins peeling off her bright blue Rick and Morty socks.
The 16-year-old has just raced in Cambridge High School’s U18 double with Jenna-Lee Markgraaff at the 2022 North Island Secondary Schools Rowing Championships at Lake Karapiro.
Now she and her crew are heading straight back up the lake to compete in the U17 quad race.
Brylee crosses the pontoon and climbs into a second boat, where her crewmates Kendra Holmes-Burr, Alex Reeve, Chelsey Cook and cox Isabel Oxenham are already seated.
The clock is ticking but she makes time to pull on another pair of bright blue socks, this time with dogs on them.
“It’s good luck to wear matching socks,” explains 16-year-old Lucy Eastwood as Brylee’s crew heads upstream.
“The socks are a whole thing; a lot of schools do it.
“In our quad last year we wore socks with milk cartons on them and my crewmate still hasn’t washed them because she doesn’t want to wash the luck off.”
Today, Lucy’s socks have done great work, helping her win gold in the U16 quad event with Lauren Wood, Libby Tonks, Tegan O’Dwyer and cox Isabel Oxenham, and silver in the U16 double with Izie Murray.
It’s a solid effort after a Covid-hampered season that has seen training time reduced and many regattas cancelled.
“When you don’t have regattas it just doesn’t feel real,” Lucy said. “You’re like, I’m just training every day for no reason and it’s really sucky.”
Organisers worked hard to make the North Island Secondary Schools’ championships happen this year, creating an altered format to accommodate Covid restrictions.
Boys and girls competed on different days and schools were kept in small groups, separated from each other in roped off zones. Parents were mainly kept away.
It completely altered the vibe and competitors and coaches missed the buzzy atmosphere.
“At Maadi I lost my voice for a week because I was just screaming for boats, but I mean you just don’t get any of that here,” Lucy said. “But it’s good to race again.”
St Peter’s rower Sophie Walker was also relishing the chance to compete.
She spent many days over the summer holidays rising at 5.30am to go to boot camp before working 10 hour days at her parents’ Four Square and then running or cycling in the evenings to keep fit.
But it was all worth it when she won silver in the U16 eight and the novice U18 quad on Monday in her first year of rowing.
“Definitely today’s paid off for everything I’ve done, winning my first two medals,” she said. “It’s pretty cool. I’m pretty stoked.”
Sophie’s teammate Lucy O’Donohoe, 14, who lives in Cambridge with her parents, won silver in the U15 eight and bronze in the U15 double.
She is grateful to her coaches, who organised online trainings when Cambridge went into lockdown in term four last year and kept students motivated.
St Peter’s director of rowing Janey Charlton said it was important for the students to be compete – “just that mental morale and having something at the end of the season, some kind of goal to achieve”.
The school’s 70 athletes won one gold, eight silver and six bronze medals at the championships, finishing tied for second overall in the top school competition, the Derbyshire Shield.
Cambridge High School finished eighth on the points table with two gold medals, three silver and two bronze.
Both schools will be taking competitors to the national secondary schools’ rowing championships, the 2022 AON Maadi Cup, in Twizel from March 28 to April 2.
Cambridge High School
U17 single: Brylee Deacon.
U16 quad: Lauren Wood, Libby Tonks, Tegan O’Dwyer, Lucy Eastwood, coxswain Isabel Oxenham.
2nd U18 single: Jenna-Lee Markgraaff.
2nd U17 pair: Chelsey Cook, Kendra Holmes-Burr.
2nd U16 double: Izie Murray, Lucy Eastwood.
3rd U17 double: Riley Martinovich, Libby Tonks.
3rd U17 quad: Brylee Deacon, Kendra Holmes-Burr, Alex Reeve, Chelsey Cook, coxswain Isabel Oxenham.
St Peter’s School
U16 Boys 4X+: Harrison McClintock, Josh Yeoman, Jack Kidd, Valentin Barrio and coxswain Alyssa Sherry-Middlemiss.
U16 Boys 1X: Harrison McClintock.
U15 Boys 4X+: Tristan Gillbanks, Thomas Nogaj, Finn Scragg, Bruno Fuller and coxswain Angus MacGillivray.
U18 Girls 2-: Sam Eden, Chloe Challis.
U16 Girls 8+: Amelia Donovan, Keana Woodfield, Meg Hazlett, Letizia Hay, Charlise Davison, Georgia Wenham, Sophie Walker, Brooke Weir and coxswain Aarushi Nanjappa.
U16 Girls 4+: Amelia Donovan, Keana Woodfield, Meg Hazlett, Letizia Hay and coxswain Aarushi Nanjappa.
U15 Girls 8+: Charlise Davison, Brooke Weir, Genie Tuck, Lucy O’Donohoe, Zara Burns, Sophie Hunter, Stella Haagh, Lucy Dawson and coxswain Skyla Gillbanks.
U15 Girls 4X+: Amelia Rettkowicz, Molly McClintock, Zara O’Leary, Olivia Henry and coxswain Skyla Gillbanks.
U18 Novice Girls 4X+: Amelia Rettkowicz, Molly McClintock, Sophie Walker, Olivia Henry and coxswain Skyla Gillbanks.
U15 Boys 2X: Thomas Nogaj, Finn Scragg.
U17 Girls 8+: Arabella Barrio, Hannah Stuart, Ella Ryan, Millie Davison, Caitlin Moriarty, Maddi McGuire, Imogene Short, Zara Wrigley and coxswain Katie Axtell.
U15 Girls 4X+: Charlise Davison, Genie Tuck, Zara Burns, Brooke Weir and coxswain Aarushi Nanjappa.
U15 Girls 8X+: Olivia Henry, Amelia Rettkowicz, Molly McClintock, Lucy O’Donohoe, Greer Curin, Poppy Chisholm, Stella Haagh, Zara O’Leary and coxswain Pravleen Kaur.