Rowers feel right at home
By Ian Ross
It was a Homecoming of a different sort in St. Catharines on Saturday for four Mustang rowers as they helped Western collect the men's, women's and overall title at the provincial finals held on the Henley Island race course.
Erin Crawford and rookie Leanne Niven, both natives of St. Catharines, returned home for the weekend wearing the purple and white to help the women capture back the Ontario title with 101 points over second place Queen's. Niven pulled back for two gold medals with a lightweight singles title and a doubles title with teammate Katie Clifford. Head coach Al Morrow had only positive comments about the super phenom.
"She put in a strong performance and looked really comfortable on her home course," he said. "I would stake a claim that she is one of our leading contenders heading into the nationals."
Crawford was another rower familiar with the long world-class course. A fifth-year kinesiology student, the veteran Mustang had the home crowd behind her, as she won gold in the heavyweight doubles with Cara Gillis and a silver in the heavyweight singles.
"There was a sense of comfort knowing I had the support of my family who came out to see me," she said. "It was just one more hurdle that I didn't have to overcome."
On the men's side, Dafydd Davies crossed the finish line first in the heavyweight singles race and added a silver in the lightweight men's eight to help the team pull past a strong Brock University crew and collect 111 total points. Two other individuals who helped carry the lightweight eight boat to a second-place finish were two more hometown rowers in Ryan Neufeld and Mike Vickers.
Looking over the entire weekend's results, men's head coach Volker Nolte was pleased with the effort and dedication put forward.
"I am very happy with the way the team handled the tight situation in the end," he said. "Brock made a lot of effort near the end to catch up to us."
With the official end to the varsity season, 20 members of this year's rowing crew will now prepare to head to Victoria, British Columbia in two weeks to compete in the nationals, held by the University of Victoria. Although not an official CIAU event, the meet promises to host some of the best competition in Canada. Nolte feels this type of event is extremely important for the sport.
"It is great that such an event is organized if we ever wanted to apply to the CIAU," he said. "We are competitive and I think we have a good chance to win one or two."
For Crawford, it will be her last meet at the university level of competition. "I'm really excited," Crawford said. "It will be my one chance to experience an all-Canadian field."