By Eraina Hooyer
It was a big day for a Ponoka youth on July 6 as he faced a major competition in Oxfordshire, England.
George Halse, of the Shawnigan Lake School in Vancouver, Senior Heavy VIII boys rowing crew recently competed in the Royal Henley Regatta in Henley-on-Thames. The Shawnigan Lake School conquered England’s prestigious Eton College by three quarters of a length to win the coveted award, the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup for junior men’s eights.
“Winning Henley is essentially the unofficial world championship of High School rowing, so to win it was a huge accomplishment for Shawnigan. To me it was the best way to finish my high school rowing career,” said Halse. “I’m really happy and proud of what we did, because when you’re doing the work and training everyday you don’t really see the pay offs. But that last race was really the culmination of all the hard work we’ve done all season, and to see it manifest itself there was awesome.”
This was the first time the Shawnigan crew has won the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup and the first time a Canadian crew has won since 1996.
The team competed against 32 other boats including teams from Australia, the United States and high end schools in the United Kingdom and Shawnigan gave each competitor a great race.
Shawnigan faced off against St. Georges School in the first round and the Winchester School in the second, winning both by more than five boat lengths. The third round was a little more challenging against Abingdon School but won by two boat lengths. In the semi-finals the crew competed against Shrewsbury School and won by a three quarters length lead when they moved on to face Eton College in the finals.
In addition to winning, Halse had a great time competing and being with his crew. The competition marked an end to a great experience as some of the members of the team will be moving on in the coming year.
“The team is great. We spend so much time together and have become so tight that we are really good friends as well as teammates,” he said. “We’ve been rowing together on different teams and in different boats for three years, so we are really tight. Unfortuately that was our last race together as a team and we will not be rowing together next year because I and some others will be graduating.”
Halse and his team practiced three hours a day in addition to three weight sessions and one hour long ergometer piece to top it off. It was a lot of work but Halse believes it was worth it.
“The thing I enjoy most about rowing is pushing myself to the limit and then going further,” said Halse. “There were timesduring the year when you want to give up because the practises were so intense but when you push yourself and know that you’ve done everything you can is when you can get true satisfaction. That’s my favorite part.”
The Royal Henley Regatta is a head racing placing two crews head to head where the winner of the race moves on and the loser is eliminated from the contest. The Royal Henley Regatta is the closest thing to the World Championship for high school rowing teams.