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Iona College Rowers Punch Above Weight at Maadi Cup

Just six months after becoming national secondary schools hockey champions, Iona College has once again hit the sporting headlines, this time at the Maadi Cup, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest schools sports event.

With over 130 schools and more than 2100 students competing, the Maadi Cup is a massive, week-long event which attracts a crowd of around 10,000 spectators and is broadcast live on Sky Sports. This year it was held at Lake Karapiro.

Ari Wright, a Year 12 Iona student in her very first Maadi Cup, stepped up from the novice grade to compete in the under-16 single sculls. She was the only novice rower to make the finals, which she went on to win by a massive margin of over five seconds.

As an encore, she and fellow Iona student Libby Christie won a silver medal in the under-18 novice double sculls, and once again going up a grade into the under-16 double sculls, they won a bronze medal, making it a medal haul of three for Iona: no other Hawke’s Bay school won a medal at the 2019 Maadi Cup.

It’s a phenomenal achievement, especially when you consider both girls are first-year rowers. These outstanding results are the combination of exceptional sporting ability and the amazing work of coach Ross Webb who has been so generous with his time and sharing his extensive knowledge.

Ross Webb is the club coach for all Novice or first-year rowers at the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club and has achieved fantastic results. He acknowledged the dedication, commitment and enthusiasm that Ari and Libby have developed for rowing over the last year. “They were diligent and reliable with their training, and both are standout competitors with a great future ahead of them.”

Another Iona girl acquitted herself with honours in the blue riband race, the under-18 single sculls.  Grace Peterson placed second in the B final, making her the tenth best performer nationally. Once again, this is a stellar result.

“It’s hard to explain just how big this is”, says Chris Jarvis, an Iona parent who has rowed at the very highest level, and who watched Ari, Libby and Grace racing. “Big schools all over the country throw massive resources at rowing, all aimed specifically at achieving results at the Maadi Cup. For a small school like Iona, with no real budget or rowing pedigree, this is a unique achievement. These young women should be incredibly proud.”

Rowing is one of the school’s fastest growing sports and this year Iona sent a record number of 12 girls to the Maadi Cup, including their first eight-boat entry. The girls are already looking forward to building on their success in 2020.

Principal Helen Armstrong commented “I am so proud of all our rowers who have shown great dedication and determination. It is fantastic to see our girls achieving at the highest level, constantly challenging themselves and most importantly having fun. Ari and Libby’s achievements are outstanding and bringing Maadi medals back to Hawke’s Bay is particularly special.” Helen knows only too well the commitment needed for this sport. “Supporting my own daughter with rowing for four years has not only given me a real insight into the intensity of training needed for rowing, but it has also reinforced the range of life skills that students learn through this sport. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club and their coaches for supporting Iona College Rowing and to our families who have made these achievements possible”.

Pictured: Year 12 student Ari Wright proudly shows off her gold medal for the under-16 sculls.