Sports Awards: St Dominic's rowing team making waves
THE St Dominic's School Rowing Academy has been a phenomenal success since borrowing two indoor machines to get started in 2010.
Since then, Year Five and Six rowers from the catholic primary in Stone have won 12 national titles in both individual and team events of the schools' indoor rowing league.
The school's sports mentor Neil Gilson, below, says the achievements are remarkable, particularly as the small school only has 49 pupils to choose from in Years Five and Six.
He said: "Despite that the school has produced an amazing and outstanding number of sporting achievements.
"Much of the success is because of the school's head, Mrs Francesca Devine, who had the vision to employ not one, but two PE teachers."
The school's rowing success was never more evident than in 2012 when St Dominic's youngsters smashed two British indoor rowing records.
The boys' and girls' under-11s relay teams were given special licence to attempt the records at their school because the relay events had been left out of the national finals at Nottingham.
They rose to the occasion, to ensure St Dominic's is the only school to have held both boys' and girls' national under-11 records.
The successful teams on that occasion were Alex Mairs, Jose Pinto, Christian Hallam and Joel Elliott (boys) and Eve and Madeleine Whitehurst, Alessia Nefando and Emily Buckley (girls).
Youngsters give up their time to row four times a week, including 7.45am sessions on a Monday and Thursday.
Gilson believes the regular indoor rowing sessions have helped the youngsters academically.
He explained: "With the increase in success and performance comes confidence and a raising of self esteem. That is passed on to academic performance with more red blood cells, higher levels of concentration and raising of standards."
Gilson, who has nominated the team in the Editor's Award category of The Sentinel/City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality of the Year Awards, believes the rowing training has also helped youngsters succeed at other sports. Despite only being a small school, St Dominic's has 23 youngsters ranked in the top three in the country in their age group in different sports.
The school has also won a hat-trick of cross-country championships in the Catholic Staffs Pyramid competition as well as titles in tag rugby, football and athletics.
He added: "The rowing success has created an impetus for improvement in fitness and conditioning which has helped the children in other sports."
The school's PE co-ordinator Jayne Ford says the whole school is proud of the children's achievements.
She said: "Much of the success is because of the camaraderie and unity of the children who work so hard for each other in such a small school. They thrive on the achievements of each other."