THE best wins are often those that are most surprising.

Few had predicted Northwich Rowing Club’s under 16s girls’ quad could claim a gold medal at the National Schools’ Regatta.

Not that they were bothered.

Rachel Cooney, Sophie Gillbanks, Charlotte Almond and Georgia Shirley ended Sunday with a stunning victory in their boat class final at Dorney Lake near Windsor.

Their prize is a trophy that was awarded for the first time to another crew representing Northwich back in 2001.

It’s an achievement made more remarkable by the fact they hadn’t trained much together beforehand.

They competed as an under 17s entry at the Oarsport Junior Sculling Head in March, finishing sixth against older rivals.

“Everything came together for them,” said coach Rachel Hooper.

“We had a plan, and they executed it to perfection with real maturity and calmness.

"They kept on top of their nerves, and caught the attention of lots of people watching.”

That included Matthew Langridge, a former champion himself at the regatta while a junior member at Northwich, who was there in his role as a coach to Grange School crews.

The girls had been third fastest during a time trial in the morning, behind fancied pair Latymer Upper School and Headington School.

They later led Laytmer for most of their semi-final before crossing the line second after easing off.

Hooper said: “They told me afterwards they still had plenty of juice left.

“Their instinct is to want to win, like any athlete, but they appreciated how important it was to be sensible tactically.

“That’s a challenge, and we told them not to get excited even after laying down a marker in the time trial.

“I didn’t talk to them about winning, but instead encouraged them only to worry about putting in their best performance – they knew what that would mean if they did so.”

Hooper rode a bike, with Langridge close behind, along the bank for the duration of the final.

By halfway, their closest challengers were playing catch-up.

Now their names will enter a small record book, packaged with the silverware, alongside those of Shelley Alder, Lucy James, Isabella Lindholt and Zosia Rutkowski.

“It’s a lovely coincidence,” said Hooper.

“A victory at an event like this doesn’t happen accidentally – it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

“The success of our girls at Henley last year has definitely increased the self-belief in our squad, and it is inspiring for everybody at the club.”