ROWING: RUNCORN Rowing Club youngsters have triumphed over adversity and proved themselves one of the country's elite crews.
The Junior 15 Quad reached the semi-finals of the National Rowing Championships in Scotland, despite being seriously hindered by a devastating vandal attack at their Clifton Village base earlier this summer.
Runcorn came closest to breaking the South's stranglehold on the event at Strathclyde.
They were the only team from the North to get so far and did better than any crew from Wales or Scotland.
The team's members have been friends since they were five-year-olds at Frodsham C of E, but now go to three different secondary schools.
Daniel Shaw attends The Grange in Hartford, Northwich, Alan Roberts goes to Frodsham College and Jonathan Bennett and Graham Peace are Helsby High pupils.
Coxing the crew of 15-year-olds was Alan's 12-year-old brother, Steven.
The boys and their club suffered a devastating blow in June when new equipment worth thousands of pounds - earmarked to help create champions of the future - was wrecked.
The club's motor launch was destroyed while several boats were damaged and valuable equipment stolen.
In February this year, the club had received £56,000 in equipment through Project Oarsome, a scheme funded by the Amateur Rowing Association and Henley Stewards Charitable Trust to promote the sport among youngsters.
The vandalism put the initiative, which in Runcorn's case involves linking up with Frodsham College and Helsby High School, in jeopardy.
But with sponsorship and funding from Sport for All, Rocksavage Power and Ineos Flor, the club was determined to strike back.
Last week, it organised a mini-regatta and rowing machine competition for pupils - overall winner of the indoor competition was Jenny Shaw, with Josh Solari the winning boy.
But, inevitably, the J15 quad's preparations for the nationals were affected by the vandalism.
The club was left with one very old launch which was also needed by younger rowers for safety reasons.
Club spokeswoman Vivien Shaw said: 'The boys were dismayed when they first saw the damage to the boathouse and launches.
'But they were determined that they were not going to let mindless vandalism get in their way.
'After the break-in, we have had to repair the very old launch, which was also damaged, and use that for coaching. The new launch was completely wrecked.
'When their use of the launch was limited, the J15s took to training earlier in the morning and into the evenings.
'They have been training four times a week and done some running and work on rowing machines in between.
'Doing so well in the National Championships is a reflection of the dedication they have to their sport and the skill of their coaches, Eric Bennett, George Perrin and Gordon Reay.'
Each race at the National Championships was over 2,000m and Runcorn charged to victories against Dulwich College's A and B crews, Yarm School, Strathclyde Park and Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. The championship winners were the King's School from Worcester.