ABOVE: Warrnambool’s golden trio Greta Stromvall O’Brien (left), Laura Keert and Shayla Casamento.BOARD paddlers Greta Stromvall O’Brien, Laura Keert and Shayla Casamento broke a 15-year drought for Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club at the Victorian Nipper Championships on the weekend.
Nanjing Night Net

The young trio mastered the Lorne surf on Sunday, outsmarting their state relay rivals to win gold.

Following the sound advice of Greta’s dad Lenny, the Warrnambool nippers picked the best avenue through the water to dominate the semi-final and final of the under 13 girls’ board relay.

Club nippers coach Stephen Kerr said it was a brilliant showcase of ocean expertise.

“The first leg (of the final) saw Greta follow her father’s instructions to head slightly further north on the way in, enabling her to ride her wave all the way to the beach and come in with a narrow lead ahead of four trailing clubs,” Kerr said.

“Laura was then able to maintain the club’s position in the second leg of the relay as it became a three-way battle.”

Anchor Shayla entered the water alongside competitors from Point Leo and Torquay.

“Again Warrnambool went further north and as the sea flattened off it looked as though the extra distance was going to cost the team,” Kerr said.

“However, Shayla was able to pick a small wave that the others couldn’t get, taking her all the way to the beach to claim the gold medal.

“It was the highlight of the day.” The victory marked Warrnambool’s first gold medal in a Victorian championships relay event since 1997.

Kerr said the win was the perfect reward for hours of training during the cooler months.

“The results achieved by the nippers are a reflection of the hard work they have put in,” he said.

“A core group of nippers kept in touch and trained once a week over autumn and winter. This was also the first season in some time that we have had a nippers’ competition squad train throughout the spring and summer.”

Warrnambool sent 48 youngsters to the titles in Lorne, among more than 1600 nippers from 38 clubs from across Victoria.

Racing was called off on Saturday due to the large surf conditions, reducing the carnival to team events and the ironman and ironwoman. Greta, Laura and Shayla teamed with strong swimmer Laura Riordan in the under 13 girls’ surf event to finish fifth.

Hayden Carr and Sarah Flaherty (under 11), Laura Riordan, Greta and Shayla (under 13s) and Meg Flaherty (under 14) qualified for the finals of their ironman and ironwoman events.

The top placegetters were Hayden, fifth, and Greta, sixth. In the under 13 boys’ beach relay, Paddy Carr, Ashwyn Samrai, Tom Pyers and Matt Hardiman narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth behind Lakes Entrance, Fairhaven and Mentone.

“I am really pleased of the success achieved by the under 13 girls and proud of the way the rest of the team performed and am hopeful of building on this year’s progression,” Kerr said.

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