Rockin' the boat two days in a row
By Will Fleury
The Western varsity rowing team didn't make many friends during the first official weekend on the water blowing past the competition and watching them sprint to the end from the other side of the finish line.
On Saturday, the squad, in their first fall regatta of the season, crushed their field to easily capture the University of Toronto sprints points total at Toronto's Centre Island.
The Western victory was anchored by the women's crew, which muscled their boats to the finish line first in an unprecedented seven out of eight events entered.
Leading the charge in the heavyweight division was Cara Gillis, who won the singles event over fellow Mustang teammate Erin Crawford. There were no hard feelings, though, as the two teamed-up to take the doubles event and also lent a hand to an impressive win in the eights.
Another Mustang dynamic duo dominated the lightweight division with Leanne Niven edging teammate Kate Clifford in the singles and then pairing up together to take the doubles event.
"I was impressed with the team's effort but I look at the results guardedly," women's head coach Al Morrow said, adding it is early in the season and the team's stiffest competitor, Queen's, did not enter this particular competition.
"Nevertheless, I was extremely pleased with the results. This will prove to be invaluable experience which will serve the team well in reaching their ultimate goal which is the OUA championships held on Nov. 1 in St. Catharines."
On the men's side, Iain Brambell took first place and Rob Parks a close second in another Mustang race to the finish in the lightweight singles. Brambell then teamed-up with Jamie Kupka to win the doubles event.
The closest race of the day, however, came in the men's heavyweight eights where the Western squad pulled out a narrow victory over a strong and experienced McGill Redmen team. Although the Redmen were a close second to the Western squad, men's head coach Volker Nolte believes it will be Brock University that will pose the biggest threat to the Western men's team in the future.
"It is very early in the season to judge but Brock is a very strong technical team. I'm sure they will make some key adjustments for the Head of the Welland regatta next weekend," Nolte said.
The team carried its winning momentum over to Sunday when they entered the 14th annual Head of the Thames regatta in London. This established annual event featured 40 events but the showcase of the day is the Town and Gown Open Eight's race. As the name suggests, this race is open to rowers of all divisions and pits the elite rowers form the London Rowing Club or "town" versus the top Western varsity athletes or "gown".
With school pride and the overall championship on the line, Western's team pulled to an impressive boat-length victory in this spotlight event over a field of tough local competition.
"It was a very intense race and it was good practice to have outside of the normal university rowing circuit," Nolte said. "Our season is very short so we try to fit in as many races as we can before the O.U.A.A. championships."