It could be said that for the rowers from The Armidale School, every cloud has a bronze lining.
After months of disruptions to training and competition with the cancellation of regattas and camps due to COVID and the postponement of their final fixtures due to flooding, the TAS squad capped off an unpredictable season with bronze medals in the Year 10 girls double scull, Schoolgirl First Quad and Schoolboy First IV at the NSW Rowing Schoolgirl/Schoolboy Head of the River in Sydney on Saturday.
Flooding in Sydney earlier this month forced Rowing NSW to postpone, split and relocate the championships from the Sydney International Regatta Centre to the Parramatta River at Iron Cove, and over 1680metres instead of 2000metres.
"It was really exciting rowing on the harbour which was a new experience for TAS, and the conditions were great with just a slight current which also made it different to SIRC," rowing captain Zara Sherwood said.
"The fact that all crews who had a heat qualified into a final showed that we all made the most of the extra time forced upon us and to have such strong parent support from the shore was just fantastic."
The results represented podium finishes for half of the TAS crews entered - the best every result at a regatta for the school since the sport was re-introduced in 2012.
Double scullers Isabella Crawford and Matilda Cullen were not only the first Year 10 TAS girls to compete at a Head of the River but also came home with a medal, while it was also the first time TAS boated two senior girls' quads, with Emma Benham coxing Zara Sherwood, Jemima Thibault, Noushi Byrne and Sofia Paris also securing a podium finish.
The Boys IV Alexander Zuber, Stirling Munsie, Fred Kearney, Louis Ross, and cox Eliza Crawford performed strongly to finish behind two crews from St Joseph's College.
The disruptions may well have played into the team's favour, TAS rowing coordinator Ben MacDougall believes.
"Ironically, because we had lost the opportunity to have our usual camps and regattas at Grafton and Taree, the postponement of Head of the River by two weeks gave us some extra time to train and refine, whereas some of the Sydney crews who hadn't been so disrupted may have been training to peak a fortnight ago," he said.
"While it did drag the season out the students did a really great job maintaining their enthusiasm and commitment to the end, even though at times it seemed like they were sprinting to a finish line that kept getting moved back."
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