Two Putney High School alumnae are battling it out in opposing crews in the Oxford and Cambridge lightweights boat race – while a third will be racing on the Tideway for Cambridge Women on Boat Race Day (April 2).
In the (dark) blue corner is Jo Heymann (class of 2016) who has earned the call up in her first year at New College Oxford, where she is reading Engineering. In the (lighter) blue corner is Iona Casley (class of 2014) who is in her final year at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge where she is reading Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic studies.
Meanwhile, Putney alumna Emma Andrews (class of 2016) has been selected for the Cambridge Women’s squad in her first year at Pembroke College. Emma is in the reserve boat, Blondie.
Speaking ahead of the lightweights’ race, the so-called Henley Boat Race, on March 26, Jo Heymann said: “When the Putney coaches suggested that if I continued to work hard, I could make the Lightweight team, I didn’t believe them! Looking back at the training and support I received at Putney, I can see how it carried me through to where I am now.”
Jo started rowing in Year 9, initially for the free T shirt! “The coaches – Pete and Ashley – really got us engaged and comfortable. It was a clever way to instil confidence in and a passion for rowing in just a couple of sessions a week.” Training built from there, increasing to 6-8 sessions weekly.
Of her Oxford ambitions, she said: “You are acutely aware that coming second is coming last, so the training starts in September. We train for 35-40 hours a week.”
Iona said: “When I was at Putney, we prioritised fun over competitiveness, probably to our coach Pete's frustration, though that positive association with the sport probably helped me take it up again at university!
“At my college’s freshers’ fair, I mentioned I had rowed at school and was instantly coerced into rowing for my college club's senior women's boat. I had a great year and the next logical step seemed to be to trial for the Cambridge women's squad in my second year. Despite the challenges of balancing a degree with 12 training sessions a week, it’s incredibly rewarding.
“This year I graduate, so this is my last shot at winning a boat race. Of course the outcome of the race does not change how much fun this whole year has been with the squad, but it's impossible to put into words exactly how much it would mean to win the race, especially after the close loss last year.”
Unlike Iona, Jo was able to make use of the Putney High School & GDST boathouse, saying: “Having your own space revolutionises your training – particularly the equipment to which Putney girls now have access.”
Indeed, current pupils are making best use of these new facilities, as the strength of the club continues to grow, along with the trophy cabinet. Next up is the Schools Head of the River Race and then the National Schools Regatta in Henley in May. Do drop by to see us if you are at any of these events.