National Schools Regatta- 2nd and 3rd Eights

The second (and third!) eights categories are a fantastic demonstration of inclusion for all athletes. In many cases, looking at the likes of St. Paul's and Eton at J18 level, these crews give a number of first eight crews a run for their money- on this case of Eton, even their own first eight. Especially in the younger years, it is great to keep kids in the sport and allow them to continue to develop. Believe it or not, athletes who have gone on to win medals at Junior World Championships and the like started in their J14 and J15 B crews!


J15 2nd 8+ - Bluefriars Cup

King's College, Wimbledon:
This crew finished 1st at Schools Head which suggested to many that this crew could potentially be a very dominant 8+ in the summer. However, post-Easter at Wallingford they finished 20 seconds behind Monmouth's 1st 8+ and 12 and 7 seconds behind Hampton and Westminster respectively. A scheduled entry at Bedford could've been a redemption act for the boys from Wimbledon, but illness struck the crew which forced them to scratch. Definitely medal contenders but will they be able to match the speeds of Hampton and Westminster.

Abingdon School:
A 1.5 second deficit to Hampton at Schools Head, meant that they finished 3rd and left them with lots of motivation. Although they chose not to race at Wallingford but they entered Bedford in both the J15 2nd 8+ and Open Eights Band 4. Knocked out in the first round of Open Eights (B4) saw them focus on their own age group, however, Bedford is known for the experienced steering abilities required by coxes due to the sharp bend and an island. Sadly, Abingdon fell short in this aspect of the race and got knocked out by a rhythmic and powerful 8+ from King's School Chester. One bad day on the water will not have stopped these boys, and I have no worries that they will be strong challengers for the Bluefriars Cup.
Westminster School:
With a very good J15 Championship 8+, there are no signs to say that this isn't caused by the great depth Westminster have shown. Racing as 2 mixed crews for the whole season up until School's Head it was hard to pin down whereabouts they would rank in head season.  A respectable 4th place suggested that some small tweaks over Easter would make this crew overtake Abingdon. This crew raced at Wallingford but finished 3rd behind Hampton, which will have fueled the 4 weeks worth of training sessions post-Wallingford knowing that they were only 5 seconds of Hampton.

Hampton School (A):
Fielding 5 8's at School's Head proved the depth that this special squad has. This crew won National School's last year in the Octuple Scull, however going off the National School's Regatta lineups of each crew, this crew has changed quite a bit, which will be interesting to whether this crew has improved or has rested on their previous success a bit too much. A 2nd place at Wallingford was a good result for the boys in yellow and a win at Bedford was deservedly won with a clear water win vs King's School Chester. But will they be able to replicate their success of last year or will they be finishing outside of the top 3?

St Paul's:
10th at School's Head and over a minute slower than KCS Wimbledon, this crew were ruled out by many for regatta season. But it seems as if someone at St Paul's is being sly and deceptive as it didn't take many to notice that this crew was nearly completely changed for Bedford last Saturday. That being said they were knocked out in the Semi-Final by a strong Hampton crew. With this deceptive behaviour, it wouldn't surprise me if they had another skill/person who they brought into this crew to make better, and therefore I believe they are going to be a nuisance for any crew that wants to win.
J15 G2nd8+ 
It looks like junior rowing is moving in a really positive direction, with seven schools and clubs fielding a girls' J15 second crew. Latymer have an excellent first eight, but their second eight did not race at School's Head, so it will be very interesting to see the speed of their B boat. The same applies to Putney, who didn't race at SHORR. The fastest second eight at SHORR were LEH, who finished 16th of the GJ15 eights overall, followed by Surbiton in 19th. LEH had an impressive near thirty second margin, so will be confident going into the weekend at their shot at gold, likely followed by Surbiton but it will be interesting to see how the crews we are yet to see race fare. 
J16 2nd 8+
School's Head demonstrated a clear front runner in the J16 2nd eights from King's School, Wimbledon, who's 38 second margin over second place speaks for itself. It will be exciting for them to have depth moving into next year as a first eight school that is starting to make it's mark in championship eights. Hampton School have strong second and third crews in this age group showing some remarkable depth, and look to be in the position to take the silver medal, with Abingdon the only real contender for the bronze medal, as Bedford School would have to overturn Hampton's third eight to catch the other B crews.
 GJ16 2nd 8+ only has one entry from Lady Eleanor Holles.
Second and Third Eights
The J18 second and third eight categories have ten and eight entries respectively, demonstrating the depth we see in UK junior programmes today.      
No doubt Eton College are the front runners in the second eights competition. Following their record-setting 4th place overall finish at School’s Head they went on to set the fastest time of the day back at BASHER ahead of the St. Paul's second eight (in the absence of the BASHER schools A crews, of course, with the exception of Bedford).  But there has been a lot of talk not only regarding these impressive performances,  but also on what those results could mean. Looking at how close their A and B crews finished on the Tideway back in March, many are questioning if this speaks more about their lineup choices than their depth. Making the final of Challenge eights at Wallingford shows they're still shooting at the big guns and regardless of crossing the finish line last, this will have helped knock any complacency as they were challenged to race some faster crews. 
Whether Eton really do have exceptional depth without the top end strength, or a crew shuffle could put the Paul's first eight under pressure and open the door for the Paul's second eight, is a question we will wait to be answered on the course on Saturday. The St. Paul's second crew have the benefit of the experience of last year's Queen Mother's Cup winner Max Deering sitting in the stern, who has also shown potential of sneaking into the GB teams this summer based on his trials performances, so there is definite depth in the Paul's squad too. They've shown some good speed finishing seven seconds behind Eton at SHORR, but there's no doubt they'll be out to overturn this result. 
These two crews look like they'll be fighting for the top spot, with the bronze medal hopefuls in Radley and Shrewsbury perhaps sitting a little too far off the pace to catch them for the silver medal. With Shiplake racing a second four and then the next eight athletes in this eight, we doubt they'll be seen as close to Eton and Paul's as before. The results from Bedford and Wallingford Regattas would show Shrewsbury to be searching for that bronze medal spot, with a valiant effort at Bedford against their own first eight.           
The eight strong field in third eights is impressive in seeing so many athletes continuing to this age group. St. Paul's held a four second margin over second place finishers Radley at School's Head so will look to hold onto this top spot, no doubt aided by the engines in the bows in the shape of  pure unit Rohit Majumdar. The contest for the medals looks to be between the aforementioned as well as Eton and Hampton, who were only separated by exactly a second at SHORR which could give for an exciting race for the last podium position. 
Ben, Ella and AllMarkOne