From same phys ed class to same NZ squad

Ben Mason and Eva Hofmans were all smiles earlier this week as they discussed their selection in...
Ben Mason and Eva Hofmans were all smiles earlier this week as they discussed their selection in the New Zealand junior rowing squad. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Two people from the same school might make the same New Zealand squad on occasion - but what about two from the same class?

Ben Mason and Eva Hofmans have managed just that, although it took them a few years to get there.

The 17-year-old duo were selected as part of the New Zealand squad to attend the junior (under-18) rowing world championships in Tokyo.

Nowadays, they represent Otago Boys' High School and Bayfield High School respectively.

But in 2015 both lived in Queenstown and were in the same year 9 physical education class at Wakatipu High School - something Mason did not realise until Hofmans brought it up.

Rowing did not figure largely for either at that point, although times have changed.

The duo were two of Otago's standouts this season and, after strong Maadi Cup performances, won their way into the national squad.

Each will race in quadruple sculls crews at the world championships on August 7-11.

In the lead-up they will spend the majority of June at Rowing New Zealand's base at Lake Karapiro.

They will train in one of New Zealand's most renowned sporting environments, while also attending St Peter's School in Cambridge for four weeks.

On June 26 they fly out to Japan to train at Lake Biwa for 10 days, before catching the bullet train to the event.

"It was a bit of a dream, something you didn't think would actually happen," Mason said.

"For it to become reality, it took a while to settle in."

"It was like the biggest goal," Hofmans added.

"You slowly ticked away at little goals over the season, then getting a trial was amazing and making the team was the best."

Both were expecting tough competition, although were going in aiming high.

Mason had plenty of experience racing in crews and that had brought much success this year.

After winning three gold medals at the South Island secondary school championships, he returned from Maadi Cup with a gold and a silver.

His only regret had been the single sculls, in which he went out slightly too hard and faded to finish fourth.

It was a pain Hofmans knew - she finished fourth last year.

However, she rebounded to claim silver this year.

A shift in mentality had been key, now seeing herself on par with the top competition, rather than just behind it.

It had also been her only chance at a medal, being Bayfield's only competitor.

She had limited experience racing in a quad, although was looking forward to rowing with other people.

The duo - both year 13 - hoped to pursue rowing after leaving school.

Hofmans was looking to study psychology, although was unsure where given the range of options rowing offers.

Mason was unsure what he wanted to study, although expressed interest in remaining at the University of Otago.

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