On Top of the World 

Melbourne’s St Catherine’s School First VIII Rowing Crew are now World Champions after taking out the Prince Philip Challenge Trophy at the famous Henley Royal Regatta in the UK overnight. 

The 2022 St Catherine’s School Rowing season will go down in history as the School’s most successful season yet, with the MMXXI First VIII Crew now reigning World Champions, Australian Champions, and back-to-back Head of Schoolgirls Champions. 

The Henley Royal Regatta is one of the most prestigious and historic rowing events on the world rowing calendar. After delivering impressive races throughout their Heats and Semi Finals, the MMXXI crew competed against the ‘best of the best’ from the USA – the Winter Park Crew, Florida in the Final.  

The St Catherine’s crew now join a distinguished history of Australian rowing crews who have successfully competed on the world stage and won at the Henley Royal Rowing Regatta since 1912. 

The St Catherine’s Rowing Program may be small, but it certainly is mighty, including a stellar crew now recognised as the world’s best Schoolgirls 8+: 

  • Cox: Summer Balla-Kellett (Year 12): House Captain, and member of the Student Executive. In her 2020/2021 season, Summer also led the crew as Cox, winning the Head of the Schoolgirls’ Regatta and Silver Medal at the National Championships  
  • Stroke: Bronte Cullen (Year 12): Captain of Boats, from a family of rowers in Australia, father and brother have both rowed. Rowed on the U19 Australian Team in the JW8+ in 2021
  • Seven: Sienna Darcy (Year 11): A competitive athlete across multiple sports, also playing Netball, Basketball and Water Polo 
  • Six: Sarah Marriott (Year 12): Rowed on the U19 Australian Team in the JW8+ in 2021. Holds five Australian ergo records (including 2km) and World ergo record (4 mins), and competed in the World Indoor Rowing Championships for Australia (placing 4th).
  • Five: Chloe Nevins (Year 11): A competitive athlete across multiple sports, also playing Netball, Basketball and Water Polo. Previously a state swimmer (50m freestyle and 50m relay).
  • Four: Zara Bongiorno (Year 12): Captain of Boats. Rowed on the U19 Australian Team in the JW8+ in 2021. Previously a state swimmer (50m butterfly).  
  • Three: Lucy Green (Year 11): A competitive athlete across multiple sports, also plays Netball, Basketball and Tennis and AFL. 
  • Two: Jemima Wilcox (Year 11): Previously on the Australian Country Basketball Team and has played Basketball for Victoria. Also played Water Polo.  
  • Bow: Zara Peele (Year 11): Daughter of Gina Douglas (Australian Rowing Team 1993-2000, 1996 and 2000 Olympics) and Stuart Peele (Australian Rowing Team 1994-1997). Granddaughter of David Douglas (Olympic silver medalist M8+ 1968). Previously a member of the state Water Polo squad.  
  • Coach: John Saunders. First eight coach. Has previously coached on the Australian U19 team and the Victorian Team.  
  • Coach Brigette Carlile. Head of Rowing and co-coach of the First Eight. Has previously coached on the Australian U19 and U21 team and the Victorian Team. 

Executing a near perfect race plan, the St Catherine’s MMXXI delighted their coaches, Brigette Carlile and John Saunders, support crew and immensely proud parents and past students who had travelled to Henley, as well as their many friends, teachers and St Catherine’s students across the Year levels supporting online from Melbourne.  

The Crew’s dominant performance was revealed when they pulled away early in the race, continuing to hold a narrow lead through 2km and finishing with a strong finish to cross the line 2/3 of a length in front of the USA crew.  

The key to their success was best concluded after the race by Stroke Seat and Captain of Boats, Bronte Cullen, “We just tried to relax as much as possible, stay focussed and trust the process. We have the most amazing group of girls and just act as one.” 

St Catherine’s School Principal, Michelle Carroll, was thrilled with their success and paid tribute to the girls’ tenacious approach to training, all whilst balancing their VCE study commitments. “This crew’s pre-season training was conducted via online sessions in their own homes throughout Melbourne’s COVID lockdowns, and they have this weekend, shown what can be achieved. It was a demonstration of the most extraordinary grit and determination. The support from their coaches, parents and teachers is also noteworthy and enabled the girls to be calm, focused and to simply enjoy the racing.”  

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