Can Loreto College go one step further?
The all-girls school enters this year's Head of the Lake on the back of an impressive second-place finish in 2015, its best ever result in the prestigious race.
Two members of last season's crew - stroke seat Eva Gillett and Laura Fay (three seat) - have made their return, while Gabby Cartledge (two seat), Monica Young (bow) and cox Jess McKee are the new faces of the group.
Loreto has yet to stand out at regattas this season, but director of rowing Nathan Sims said people shouldn't write the crew off.
"They're going well," Sims said.
"We've been slowly building through our regattas and have been using them as training, seeing what works and what doesn't. Hopefully we can peak at the right time.
"Our girls have belief. They believe in themselves and each other."
All five members of Loreto's girls firsts are in their final year of school and have long been close friends outside of the rowing program.
According to Sims, the crew is remarkably tight-knit.
"When the training gets tough, someone's a bit down or they're feeling the pinch a little bit, they all help each other out and back each other up," Sims said.
"I think it helps, definitely."
Sims also said the competition appeared to be very even, with Ballarat High School, Ballarat Grammar and Ballarat Clarendon College all performing well at various stages of the season.
Seventeen-year-old Gillett concurred, saying her crew had their work cut out for them in the big race.
"All of the other schools are rowing really well at the moment," Gillett said.
"I feel that we're rowing well, it's just that the other crews are rowing very well. It makes for really good competition, which we're glad about.
"We see it as our advantage for us of maybe being the underdog."
Gillett still has fond memories of last year's race and said the experience had proved beneficial in her preparation heading into next Friday.
"It definitely makes you a bit more aware of what we're in for," she said.
"Last year I learned that the hard work you put in at training really pays off on race day, and that you race the way you train. That's been a really important concept for us.
"The race can be so nerve-racking, especially if you haven't done it before, but I think you have to embrace it."
History: Gillett is a returning member of lastyear’s division one crew which finished second.
She has been in the program for four years.
History: Fay competed in last year’s division one race in bow seat.
She was previously in the Year 10 and year nine division one crews as well.
History: In a remarkable rise up the ranks, Cartledge has moved from the open fifth division crew
lastyear to the firsts this season.
History: Young has made the jump up from lastyear’s open division two crew. She is in her fourth year
in the program.
History: This is McKee’s first ever season in Loreto’s rowing program, having watched from a far in
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