Thousands of junior rowers compete at the 2024 National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships

Over 3,000 young people from across the UK took part in the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships (NJIRC) held over two weekends in Leeds and London


Photo: Lánre Adeleye

First hosted in 2007, NJIRC is run by London Youth Rowing (LYR), a charity that aims to develop young people through physical activity and to open access to rowing at all levels. Like in previous years, the 2024 competitions were proudly supported by British Rowing, Concept2 and the Henley Royal Regatta Charitable Trust.

NJIRC North – Leeds

LYR launched the Active Row Leeds programme in September 2021, building on an earlier programme run by RowUK. Active Row Leeds is the first scheme that LYR’s school engagement programme has run outside London.

Nearly 50 clubs and schools brought 900 children to the John Charles Centre for Sport, with over four hours of racing packed into the schedule. Tees RC produced a strong showing in the older race categories, with gold medals for Joseph Merriott in the Year 13 Boys’ 2000m and Daisy Thom in the Year 13 Girls’ 2000m.

The relay distance this year was 2112m, the distance of the Henley Royal Regatta course. In the Junior Boys’ Relay, Infinity BC (a charity aiming to introduce competitive rowing to disadvantaged youth in the Middlesbrough and Stockton areas) dominated the race and finished 25.5 seconds ahead in a time of 07:01.2. It was a similar story in the Junior Girls’ Relay, as the team from Nottingham and Union RC crossed the line 22.5 seconds in front, in a phenomenal time of 07:41.5.

NJIRC also ran nine events specifically for junior rowers with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), where participants competed in 2-minute races. This category saw many standout performances, including Aya El Shafei winning the Year 10 Girls event with 491 metres and Sean Lister who covered a superb 498 metres in the Year 9 Boys event – both are students at The Ruth Gorse Academy.

British Rowing Indoor Manager Chris Farrell reflected on the day, “NJIRC North is a fantastic event to support, helping young people to take part in an indoor rowing championship event on their doorstep. It has helped showcase how accessible and fun the sport is and has become a pivotal event in the junior calendar.”

Full results of NJIRC Leeds can be found here.

NJIRC South – London

One week later, NJIRC was held at the renowned 2012 Olympic venue, The Copper Box Arena. This time, it hosted over 2,300 junior competitors racing in 130 categories.

Aimee Mace of Maidstone Invicta RC clinched the gold in the first race of the day, the Year 12 Girls 2000m, with an impressive time of 07:32.5. Following closely behind, Lizzie Pannell of Bexhill RC secured the silver, while Hana Hockaday, also from Maidstone Invicta RC, claimed the bronze.

Race winner Aimee shared her enthusiasm for the event, “I’ve been coming to NJIRC since I was in Year 8, so about four years, and it’s a great experience every time I come. I love being around people with the same interests as me and spending time with friends here whilst I compete is great.”

Maidstone Invicta RC coach Pete Mileham said, “This is a big event for us every year, Aimee smashed it and we’re all so proud of her.”

Other notable results included the Northampton School for Boys B team, who won the Senior Boys 2112m Relay in an outstanding time of 5:58.5, finishing 21.6 seconds ahead of their A team.

The Year 7 Girls’ 2-minute race saw some intense competition, with Chinenye Ikwukaeme from Mossbourne Rowing Academy and Anne Okonkwo from David Ross Education Trust finishing the race with just a one-metre gap between them.

Shayma Ahmed, a coach at LYR, attended the event to support 12 of her junior rowers. “This is one of the biggest indoor rowing events in the world, where schools from across the UK can just come and have a go. The arena is very busy and buzzing with energy, everyone’s enjoying themselves but still really focused.”

Full results of NJIRC London can be found here.

Photo: Lánre Adeleye