Damascus College may have the youngest boys crew that will take to Lake Wendouree for Sunday’s Head of the Lake, but it is a crew that knows each other well.
Damascus’ boat will be filled with four year 11s and a year 9 cox, but this crew is no stranger to success on the lake.
Rhys Davis, Ethan Blackmore, Ethan Handley, Mackenzie Yandell and Caspian Linayao won the year 10 division one Head of the Lake last year, pipping St Patrick’s College by less than a second.
The familiarity in the boat is sure to hold Damascus College in good stead and help make-up for what it may lack in strength compared to some other crews.
Rowing Director Sharon Waters said this season had been about building upon last year after it made its division one debut.
The main thing that stood out was developing strength in the boat.
“It’s really been a consolidating year for us, just building on the strengths of our program last year,” Waters said.
“One thing we addressed from last year was, we really need to improve the strength and conditioning of our athletes in our senior program – so that’s been a strong focus for us this year.
“Just consolidating on what we achieved last year, building our knowledge, building our experience, training hard, being focused and really looking forward to putting all that into play and bringing our best on Sunday.
“We’ve had a strong focus on technique and we’ve tried to support that with strength and conditioning.”
Damascus College finished fifth last year and Waters had high hopes for the young crew this time around.
Waters said the biggest positive was that this crew would return next year with plenty of experience.
“The boys have really been improving in terms of their physical development and also their mental development – how to pull together ahead of races.
“We have high hopes and expectations of both crews, the boys in particular, we just keep looking for that continual improvement.
“They’ll come back next year in the senior program, so it’s really exciting from where we’re sitting.”
There is no doubting Loreto College is the favourite for the girls’ Head of the Lake, but Damascus College is giving itself every chance.
Rowing Director Sharon Waters said Loreto College were clearly the ones to beat, but she had full faith in her girls that if they execute their plan on the day, it will be in contention.
“It’s a tough gig coming up against that really strong Loreto crew,” Waters said.
“But I know the girls have done the preparation and they’ve got level-heads on their shoulders...we’d love to be on the heels of Loreto.
“I think it’s going to come down to executing their race plan, keeping cool heads, focusing on their race and the outcome will take care of itself.
“They have the potential to be right there in the mix.
“They are conditioned, they’re fit, they’re strong, they’re rowing beautifully as a crew – I have every faith that they’ll be right in the hunt.”
Last year saw an impressive debut to division one for Damascus’ girls – finishing second. And 12 months on, it will field another strong, well-prepared firsts crew.
Damascus College as a boat shed is eager to put itself on the Ballarat rowing map.
As relative newcomers to the top level, it has been working hard over the off-season to prove it is not there to simply make up the numbers.
“Damascus, as a program, is really starting to stand-up and get everyone to take notice of us because we’re putting some good results on the board and every time the kids take to the water they’re always improving.”
Waters said excitement was building for the race.
Not only for the main race, but the standard of rowing across the region.
Waters said she had seen a spike in the standard of rowing and with strong schools in St Pat’s and Loreto driving it, rowing in Ballarat was getting more and more competitive.
“We’re really excited for the day.
“The whole standard has really stepped up a level this season and that’s being led by St Pat’s in the boys program and certainly by Loreto College.”
“We look forward to everyone having their best race on Sunday.”
See what the crews had to say here.