Madibaz rower Alex Ennis became the first female Nelson Mandela University student to be awarded Grudge (half) colours at the recent University Sport South Africa sprints regatta.
The event was held at the Misverstand Dam on the Berg River, near Porterville in the Western Cape, from April 5 to 7.
Besides the recognition Ennis received, the club showed their potential by qualifying for seven men’s finals and eight women’s finals.
The 22-year-old Ennis only started rowing last year and has made great strides after initially competing in the novice category.
“This year I wanted to compete in the A division and work towards a goal of attending the World University Rowing Championships in 2020 or 2022, or both,” she said.
She explained the concept of being awarded USSA rowing colours, known as Blues and Grudge.
“Blues and Grudge is the selection and racing of the top university athletes in South Africa.
“Both sweep and sculling boats are selected, with the top athletes being chosen to race in the Blues crew and the next best competing in the Grudge crew.
“Selection for Blues and Grudge starts early with athletes having completed 1km and 2km ergo trials in the beginning of the year, aiming to meet predetermined cut-off times. Finally their overall performance at USSA sprints is considered by the selectors.”
Ennis added that her expectations going into the USSA tournament were unknown, having only previously competed in the novice section.
“I had never raced these experienced individuals before, so the goal was to go out and try my hardest with all the hard work I had put in beforehand and I am really glad it paid off.”
She said the team members, consisting of nine women and 11 men, were generally happy with their efforts,
“As the ladies’ captain I was extremely proud of my girls and their performances, especially as 70% of them are completely new to rowing.”
“It was the first time since 2016 that we had nine women members, which is significant as the eights event is a vital race in rowing. For us to compete in it this year is a huge accomplishment for the club.”