It is difficult to put yourself into the mindset of any athlete before any competition; these individuals are at a psychological extreme, mentally willing and motivating themselves to perform to their physical limits, to give a performance which is the fruition of their training while fighting back nerves. The Student Athletes of Queen's Rowing dealt with such a mindset as they made their way from the Queen's Boathouse in Belfast on Tuesday morning all the way to the start line on Inniscarra Lake at the National Rowing Centre in Cork.
As well as the uncharacteristically high temperatures, blue skies and sunshine that competitors were met with throughout the majority of this year's Championships, another welcome addition to the competition was the new stakeboat, moved over to the lake having been used at Eton Dorney the previous Summer, for the Olympic Rowing events at London 2012.
(Credit to Queen's Men's Club Coach Paddy Doherty for the above photograph)
The Queen's Lady's Novice Coxed four was the first Queen's crew to compete for the Club over the Weekend. They raced their heat to a time of 8:09, placing 3rd which allowed them entry to the final against stiff competition from NUI Galway and Commercial Boat Club. Against much tougher conditions in the form of a strong headwind, the Ladies finished in 3rd place with a time of 8.24, while NUI Galway finished 2nd and Commercial in 1st place.
The Cox for the Novice Lady's Coxed Four had this to say about the performance of herself and her crew:
There was strong competition in the fours race. I felt the crew definitely took it up a notch in the final and kept their composure to come 3rd overall. The conditions were choppy and I think that the girls coped very well with them, particularly in the final.
Luke McCann raced the Intermediate single on the first day of the National Championships, performing strongly in his heat to finish 3rd with a time of 9.14. The final was a much tighter event, with the winner of Luke's Heat, Kenny from Grainne Mhaol finishing in 1st with a time of 8.09, Prendergast from Skibbereen, who finished 2nd in Luke's heat, finished 3rd in the Final with a time of 8.30, while Luke finished in 5th Place, with a time of 9.10.
The rower, who is finishing his first year of University and competing for QUBBC as well as rowing for Methody at Junior level, had this to say about his performance in the Lightweight Single Sculls event: I went into it really apprehensive about it being a senior pot event, I thought I'd be completely out-classed. So being able to sit in a qualifying position in my heat was a big boost and being able to place 5th in the final even after my nasty collision with a few buoys was a highlight of my year. Shows how great the work over the year has been that I could jump into the boat for a few weeks and place 5th in a highly competitive senior event.
One of the most anticipated races of the weekend, the Men's Novice Eight, also took place on the Friday, with the Queen's Novice Men racing against UCC, UCD, Trinity and NUI Galway in a straight final. Queen's launched themselves into the race with a rapid start, holding them ahead of close rivals UCC and up with UCD and Trinity, however the Trinity men had proved themselves to be the top competitors of the day, gaining clear water over all crews by the 750m mark. Queen's held their lead against UCC throughout most of the race, until they were into the finishing stages of the race, when UCC made strong pushes to take their 3rd place position, leaving the Queen's men in a finishing position of 4th place, with a final time of 7.06. UCC finished with a time of 7.01, UCD finished 2nd at 6.56 and Trinity finished 1st by a clear margin with 6.50.
A disappointing result for the Novice Men, however the race also provided understanding to the first year rowers how high the calibre of Novice Rowing is at this stage of the season as well as an example of how crew cohesion must be maintained consistently throughout the racing season, as there were changes to the crew prior to and after Henley regatta. Overall though, the crew agreed that they felt that they raced well and give it their best.
The Men's Senior Four race was also a straight final. It was a very close race, with very little gaps between the finishing times for each of the crews entered. The Queen's Senior Four crew were very much in the thick of it throughout the race, however finished just behind the crews in 6th place, with a time of 7.08. The winning crew was Grainne Mhaol with a time of 6.51. While of course this was moral sapping for the Queen's Men, the Senior Four at Irish Nationals was never a priority race for for the Senior Men and was always considered more of a 'leg-opener' for the Senior Eight race on Sunday.
The first day saw some good performances from both the Men's and Lady's clubs, while others were seen as more disappointing. It was unquestionably though, a good way to 'break in' the competing Queen's crews into the high calibre atmosphere of the Irish Nationals Weekend and was good preparation for the races to come in the competition.