This years U23 and senior trials, took on a slightly different tone, with social distancing and masks worn at all times, unless on the water rowing. The racing, was, as ever, extremely competitive. Outside of the senior squad, over 140 of the top male and female rowers from across Britain came to Caversham seeking selection for the World U23 Championships and to get noticed by the selectors.
In the women’s single sculls, having not competed for 18 months due to the pandemic and injury, Lauren Henry took to the water in good shape, but in slightly cautious mood, not knowing what the opposition might do. Before the event she said, “You never know what your opposition might do on the day, there are some really fast girls competing. I can only do my race and execute my plan to the best of my ability.”
The trials were originally going to be a 2 day event, but were condensed into 1 day due to adverse weather predictions for Sunday. The format was to run a time trial in the morning, from which crews would be seeded into groups of 6 for the finals in the afternoon; top 6 go to the A final, 7th to 12th to the B final and so on.
Starting 8th, in a field of 22, Lauren powered her way down the course in her time trial. Her coach Howard Marsh said, “I could tell she was going to have a good scull, she was totally focussed on what she had to do beforehand. I watched her come down the course, I was very impressed, she looked like she executed what we spoke about before the race really well. Talking about it before hand is one thing, but to actually do it is quite something else.”
The result of the time trial could not have been better. Lauren won, and had a nice cushion in time over the next placed girl. Time trials can be funny things, and some people don’t always race them so well, so Lauren couldn’t afford to get too excited; there was still a final to race.
In the A final in the late afternoon, the top 6 girls lined up on the stakeboats. As the starter called the crews over, Lauren looked very calm and collected. As the race began, everyone powered out of the blocks and it was a very even start across the field. One of the scullers was making a bit of a sprint of it and narrowly led through the 500m mark, but it was pretty even across all the other crews, with just 3 seconds separating all 6, with Lauren sitting in 2nd nudging her bows in front of the rest. By halfway, Lauren was beginning to push ahead of her rivals, who were all still very tightly packed, with little over a length separating 2nd to 6th. The rest of the field stayed almost in a line as Lauren, rating a powerful 34 forged further ahead. As the race came into the closing stages, it became quite clear there was only going to be one winner. Lauren, maintaining the intensity she had from the first stroke, crossed the line several lengths of clear water ahead of the chasing pack. A job well done!
Afterwards Lauren said, “It was great to be back racing after all this time. I’m obviously really pleased to have won, but I’m especially pleased with the way the race went. We had trained well over the last few weeks, and I wanted to race the way I train; I felt like I did that today.” Her coach commented that he could see that Lauren was in a very good place mentally and that she was taking the confidence from her training into her racing. It was a real joy to see her push through against such a strong field and keep the focus all the way to the line. Even when things were tight in the first 500m, Lauren kept cool, stuck to her plan and raced all the way.
There will be more testing to be done in regards to potential selection for the U23 World Championships, held this year in the Czech Republic in mid July. Lauren has, however, put down a clear marker to the selectors and shown them what she is capable of. Saturday could not have gone any better.