Old Stamfordian races in Women’s Boat Race
Pictured above: Megan Stoker, racing in the Women’s Boat Race (Oxford v Cambridge) – photography credits: Benedict Tufnell/Row 360
Old Stamfordian, Megan Stoker (OS16) raced in the renowned Women’s Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge in April 2021.
This year marked the 75th anniversary of the women’s boat race, held at the beginning of April, in which Megan raced for Oxford.
Selection for the team was highly competitive, involving three days of sea racing; racing timed distances in different combinations to find the fastest team.
Megan discussed the race in an interview with Natalie Pretsell, Community Engagement Manager at the Schools:
“On the day I was feeling nervous as you would expect, with all the cameras on us and knowing this is the one chance we have; however, at the same time we were all very excited to show everyone what we are made of. It was not the result we wanted but it was an extremely hard fought race, full of tenacity, which I could not be more proud of. I feel extremely lucky to be part of a team with such strong and inspiring women and I cannot wait to try again next year to get the win we came here for.
“It has all been a bit surreal. I remember watching the race on TV when I was younger and that’s what got me in to rowing, looking up to athletes thinking how amazing it would be to get there, and now I am here having interviews; I think I’m still in a day dream! My family have strong ties with Oxford, as my dad went there, and so we have always supported dark blues and loved the city.”
“It can be hard. Rowing is a skill that takes a lot of practice and you might not get it the first time, but if you commit to training, you get a lot out of the sport and can do amazing things with it. I have met amazing people and been a part of the most amazing teams with really inspiring other women. It is worth the hard work at the end of the day; it gives you skills you can use in all walks of life. ”
Pictured above: Oxford Team, racing in the Women’s Boat Race (Oxford v Cambridge) – photography credits: Lucinda Douse/Row360
Alongside physical training, Megan emphasised how training for the race mentally has been equally important:
“A lot of our training was about visualising being in the race; before we went out, thinking about what our opposition were doing and what we could do better, planning strategies and planning everything we could do on the day. We had access to a sports psychologist who helped, giving advice on how to deal with the pressure. Five out of eight of the team were ‘returners’ who have competed in the race before and knew how it worked; everyone in the team has been really supportive.”
Pictured above: Oxford Team, preparing for the Women’s Boat Race (Oxford v Cambridge) – photography credits: Benedict Tufnell/Row 360
Megan attended the Stamford Endowed Schools from 2009-2016 and studied Maths, Chemistry, Physics and Biology at A Level, completing an Extended Project Qualification in rowing during her time here. She was part of the Year 7 to 13 indoor rowing team from Year 9, where the team won gold at the national indoor level.
Rowing continued for Megan after school, where she attended the University of Bath and “immediately joined the rowing club”. More recently, Megan joined the team at Oxford: “I joined the summer development programme of Oxford University Women’s Club, trained with Oxford over lockdown, and was then able to trial for the team in September.”
The team were only able to get back on the water a month before the race, following government guidelines. Prior to this, Megan discussed how the team would use Zoom to virtually train together on rowing machines, meeting up only for socially distanced running with one other member of the squad.
Megan told us she will be trialing for the race again next year as it is “such a nice squad to be a part of, and it would be nice to get a non-lockdown experience!” – best of luck Megan!
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