Department wins Boat Race!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Category: News

Three current students in the Department of Education competed in winning teams in the Boat Races in 2015.

Shelley Pearson newspage

Shelley Pearson is in the process of completing her final dissertation in the MSc Education (Child Development and Education) course. Whilst doing her course, she managed to find time to compete in the winning Oxford Women’s Blue Boat which competed, for the very first time, on the same course as the Men’s and on the same day – Saturday 15th April. Shelley says:

It’s certainly quite challenging to row and study at the same time but in some ways each provide a welcome distraction from the other. I’m not sure the full capacity of what we’ve accomplished has hit me yet, but when we crossed that finish line first we could breathe again. All of the hours of training and early mornings were worth it to help us successfully perform on the day. The boat race is so extreme because it is only a winner and loser. The feeling of winning other races pales in comparison to the exaltation of winning the boat race.

Chris Heemskerk newspage

Chris Heemskerk is also enrolled in the MSc Education (Child Development and Education) course along with Shelley. She rowed in the Osiris crew, the day before. This is what Chris says about the experience:

Spending 6 hours a day on training whilst studying means you become a pro at planning – squeezing reading into the bus journeys to training and races, and working at the boathouse in between training sessions. There aren’t many of our training venues where my laptop hasn’t been. Luckily I’m a morning person, so the early mornings aren’t a problem, and even when we don’t have early sessions I’m generally up at 6am to get work done. Holidays were spent doing work rather than going home to see family as that was the time we would also be training a little less and have more time for work!

The race experience was worth it though, Cambridge got two seats ahead off the start, but we didn’t give them an inch more than that. And before the mile post we had gotten ahead and clear of them. We were not just racing to win though, but also to set the fastest possible time we could and to show the world that women are very well capable of racing the Championship Course, so we never let up. The final margin was 47 seconds – or 15 boat lengths, the greatest margin I have won by – which felt amazing! But the best part of the race most definitely was the team spirit in our crew – you could feel that everyone was giving their very best on every single stroke from start to finish.

James O'Connor newspage

And last, but certainly not least, James O’Connor – MSc Education (Research, Design and Methodology) – was in the winning Men’s team. He told us:

Rowing and academia have always gone hand-in-hand to me, and I have long-held high ambitions in both domains. It was only appropriate then that I applied to Oxford University, as it is one of the few places in the world where one can genuinely achieve to an internationally recognized level in both at the same time. Naturally, this has been quite a challenge. Daily morning gym sessions and all-afternoon water sessions out in Wallingford left only a few hours of time available to study each day, and these were often spent battling fatigue and the urge to nap. While holidays and weekends didn’t really exist for me in the typical sense, it was all worth it come race day.

Despite the near-devastation of almost missing the race due to a last-minute illness, the culminated efforts of the past several months (as well as the prior decade or so of rowing that put me in the position to row in the Oxford Blue Boat) were rewarded about a quarter of the way around the outside of the Surrey bend on April 11th. By the end of the race we had left Cambridge in our dust. There are usually very few things that I remember from races, but both the stadium-like roar of the crowd at the start line and the sense of jubilation mixed with relief as I crossed the finish line alongside my crewmates (and brother!) will remain among my fondest memories for the rest of my life. There is a very real chance that this will be the end of my high-level rowing career, but I am excited to for the opportunity to focus a little more strongly on the academic side of things from this point on as I look to make the most of all that I have achieved to date.

Warmest congratulations to all our fantastic rowers! We are very proud of you and wish you all the best in your future endeavours – whether they be academic, professional or sporting.

Click on the pictures to read more about them, their teams and their competitors.