Pulling together for glory

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Five Wakatipu High kids are counting on close friendships as well as fitness when taking on some of New Zealand’s best young rowers. 

Kate Bradford, Ariana Horsley, Jordan Howell, Holly Bain and coxswain Gabby Buchanan head to Twizel’s Lake Ruataniwha on Saturday for the annual Maadi Cup secondary schools regatta. 

The 16-year-olds will be joined by four other girls and five boys from Wakatipu High who’ll pit their skills against the cream of the country’s teenage talent from 114 schools. 

Ariana, Holly and Jordan have emerged as strong rowers since starting out three years ago. Kate, who only started the sport last September, has managed to step up to form despite her status as a first-year “novice” to complement the under-16 coxed quad. 

“Best friend” Jordan convinced Kate to get into rowing – they’re also pairing up for the under-16 double sculls.
“We’re the same height and weight, we’ve got the same strength, and we’ve got the same leg and arm length,” Jordan says. 

“We worked really well together as a double so we stayed like that for the whole season.” 

“Best friends” Ariana and Holly join with Gabby and schoolmate Alex Jamieson for the under-17 coxed quad. 

The season’s been a tough slog for the teenagers with training six days a week, on Lake Hayes from 6-8am, dry training at nights and regattas most weekends. 

But the hard work has paid off – the under-16 girls are currently ranked in the top eight in the South Island for their age group. 

Their excitement is tinged with nerves before they head to the week-long regatta, but the girls have plenty of experience in dealing with each others’ “breakdowns”. 

“We all know it’s hard so we know how each other feels,” Ariana says. 

They’re grateful for the support of their parents and coaches Maurice Maxwell and Allan Ruffell – and hope to do them proud by making the finals.