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Friday, 22 May 2015

National honour for queen of Tyne Green

A NATIONAL award for their leading lady has capped off a year to remember for Hexham Queen Elizabeth High School Rowing Club.

In 2012, the club produced two national bronze medal winning teams and topped British Rowing’s league table of best school clubs.

Undoubtedly, though, the highlight was the hosting of the Matt Wells Jubilee Sprint Regatta which saw more than 10 Olympic rowers descend on Tyne Green to bid a sensational farewell to the former QEHS member and Olympic hero.

The good news does not stop there, as rowing coordinator Pauline Higgins (left) will be presented with a top award in recognition of her tireless work to promote the sport.

A week tomorrow, Mrs Higgins will travel to London’s Merchant Taylors’ Hall to pick up the newly created British Rowing Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

She has thrown herself into the sport since becoming involved with QEHSRC while her sons were members, officially becoming coordinator there nine years ago.

In addition, she has recently become junior coordinator for the region.

She said: “I am completely gobsmacked to receive the award and I just look around and see lots of people who deserve it more than I do.

“I am just so flattered and honoured to be put forward, and I see it as an award for everyone in North-East rowing and not just for me.”

While a handful of other people across the country will receive the same award, Mrs Higgins’ exceptional work in bringing the Olympian regatta to Hexham reflected kindly on her.

More than 3,500 people turned up to shout on the Olympic rowers, particularly Matt Wells, a Hexham lad who went on to appear in four Olympic Games before his retirement after 2012.

The event also attracted other Olympic rowers to the shores, including gold medallists Kate Copeland and Sophie Hosking.

The regatta captured the imagination of the youngsters at the club, most still on a high after meeting the stars.

Mrs Higgins said: “The success of the regatta was indescribable and the buzz that children got from it was beyond expectations.

“The ones that were on holiday at the time of the event were devastated because they missed out on a great day!

“It was just incredible for the club but more so for the children because it was a massive highlight for them to make contact and mix with these incredible athletes.”

Mrs Higgins’s burning desire to continue improving the club is plain for all to see, and she pulls out all the stops to do anything she can to do develop the abilities of the members.

She said: “I love being involved with the club because, even though the children change all the time, we always have a fantastic group of students coming along.

“It is great to be out there with them and that is what keeps you going. They’re my motivation.”

Following Team GB Rowing’s success at London 2012 and Matt Well’s regatta, interest at QEHSRC has increased significantly.

At the start of the year, more than 70 new members were turning out but that number has now dropped to around 40.

To welcome the new influx of rowers, the club will host their annual internal regatta tomorrow with various races to take place throughout.