A STRONG contingent of female rowers will raise the oars for Lower Clarence at the NSW Rowing Championships, which start today.
Candice Jagoe and Kylie Duff in the elite women, Teagan McFarlane, Chianna Dane and Marnie Evans in under-19 women and Crystal Piper and Grace Bolton in under-15 women will all be vying for medals at the Sydney International Regatta Centre.
Most of the girls left for Sydney yesterday. But the two youngest, Crystal and Grace, were up bright and early this morning. They had Year-10 photos at Maclean High School yesterday and don't row until tomorow.
"We're rowing together in a double and in a quad with two girls from Coffs Harbour," Crystal said.
The contingent coached by Betty Bogdanek, Keryn Saunders and Harold Kratz collectively carry a competitive attitude into their rowing and are buoyed by each other's determination to succeed.
"It's good to have competition within your club because it makes you work harder," Crystal said.
"When I started I always looked up to them, and now it's my time."
When Crystal competed at her first state championships last year she said she was more concerned about staying afloat than where she finished in the race.
In the space of 12 months expectations have changed dramatically for the 15-year-old.
"I want to win," she said simply.
"I'm really excited for my single scull because last year I was hoping to stay in the boat. I went really well and came fourth in the final.
"This year I've got more experience. I've had a really good season so far and won all my single races."
Chianna has competed at this level on several occasions and has achieved some outstanding results - including third in last year's under-19 double scull.
However, state gold remains elusive and she'll be hoping to turn that around with Teagan in the double scull and when they team up with Marnie and Lismore's Nikki Keen in the quad.
"The first aim is finals and, of course, if we get there we'll aim for a medal," 17-year-old Chianna said.
Chianna from Iluka, Marnie from Wooloweyah and Teagan from Yamba all travel about half an hour to the rowing shed at Maclean's Ferry Park before sunrise to train on the Clarence River.
Chianna said you get used to the early starts.
"It's a good time of day," she said.
"You get used to it after a while, it becomes second nature.
"I've been rowing since I was 11 or 12. My mum and sister row, so I've been going along to regattas ever since I was born.
"It's a sport you can always work on. When you get all your technique together it feels amazing, but there's always something to improve on."