By TONY WHITE
SOUTH Grafton High School student Ashleigh Peppernell has continued her stellar rowing season by taking out the schoolgirl open single scull event at the NSW Combined Independent Schools Schoolgirl Head of The River at Penrith on Sunday.
The brilliant 16-year-old stroked her way to victory over Rachael See (Maclean High) in the blue ribbon event.
The regatta at the International Regatta Centre is the pinnacle of schoolgirl rowing attended by around 850 people including competitors, parents, coaches and spectators.
While Sydney schools dominate in numbers, quiet a few rowers from the North Coast, South Coast and Canberra took part. The electric atmosphere is a new experience for regional rowers.
Peppernell and See's performance was particularly meritorious as both girls are still Under-17 athletes.
Johanna Tarrant from Grafton High School, along with Peppernell and See, members of the girls' Under-17 coxed quad scull gold medalists at the Australian championships, finished second in the Year 9 single scull to a rower from Newcastle Grammar School.
The Clarence Valley trio are all members of the North Coast Academy of Sport rowing program.
Peppernell, a 2005 Daily Examiner Sports Star of the Year top 10 finalist, has rowed away with several major titles this season including her latest effort, the girls' Under-17 single scull at the NSW championships in February and stroked the girls' Under-17 coxed quad scull to gold at the Australian championships.
Peppernell and other rowers from the Valley are competing in the CHS championships in Penrith.