The Univeristy of Victoria rowing teams both earned podium finishes at the 2011 CURC national university rowing championship held on the Welland Canal in Welland, Ont., Nov. 5-6.
The Vikes women won their 10th national university rowing title in the 15-year running of the event in dramatic fashion with the champion still undetermined entering the final race.
“It was a nail-biter coming down to the final event,” said Rick Crawley, Vikes women’s head coach. “With Western leading the overall standings by one point, it was up to our lightweights to once again bring home the banner.”
“The race was hard fought between UVic and Western’s light four,” Crawley said. “With the banner in the balance, the Mustangs pushed the first 1,000-pace, but then we kicked it in to high gear and rowed to an open-water win.”
UVic’s Antje von Seydlitz got things started with a bronze in the women’s single in her inaugural nationals as the single sculler.
Ingrid Braul followed up with a convincing win in the lightweight single, her second straight, which briefly gave the Vikes the points lead.
Next up was the eight, with a lot of hope for victory and a long-standing rival, Western, across the water. The battle between the two heralded programs was won by Western which punched out right off the start to a slight lead, setting up a see-saw battle down the course.
“We were five seconds faster over the time trial the day before,” said Crawley. “But the strong tail wind did not favour us as Western has a bit more experience in the boat.”
True to that observation, Western rowed smoothly and the more powerful Vikes struggled a bit in the rough water, Crawley said, adding that UVic was relentless right to the finish-line with “a withering sprint that just fell a little shy of catching the Mustangs.”
This gave Western a substantial lead in the points total at the time.
“The points are weighted to the eight,” said Crawley. “It is a pivotal moment in the schedule.”
That is when the lightweights took over. The defending champs in the double, Alex Meiklejohn and Leanne Fells controlled the race from the start, but as they crossed the line it was Western in second keeping the battle interesting. UVic inched closer with the win, but the Mustangs had the fastest qualifying pair coming up next. True to form, Western took the gold in the pair and the Vikes were fourth in that race setting up the showdown and critical need for a win in the lightweight four.
“It was an interesting year,” said Crawley. “Western had to improve their Achilles Heel from last year, their lightweights, which they did, but our heavyweights also improved. The end result: another banner for the Vikes as top university women’s rowing program in Canada.”
Meanwhile, the UVic men placed third.
“We were pretty good, I can’t complain at all,” said men’s head coach Howard Campbell. “I have no complains on how the guys rowed. Sure there were some disappointing performances for some of the younger crews, but overall I’m pleased.”
Campbell described the weather as favourable for crews, with strong tailwinds which affected the ability to race, creating “very fast times and exciting racing.”
“I’d say we had the most exciting race in 8s university nationals history with three boats under 5:45, neck and neck all the way down the course,” Campbell said of the battle between Western, Brock and UVic. “And UBC and Queen’s gave it a good go up until the 1,000-metre mark. It was exciting to watch. As much as I would have liked to have come out on top on the winning 8, we got to see the men’s 8 come of age. There were four times in preliminary heats within three seconds, and then a really exciting race today. It was a super event to watch with the tight racing and a lot of the other events had some tight racing on the men’s side as well.”
Campbell credited Western Mustangs head coach Volker Nolte and his staff for running an outstanding regatta.
“Hats off to Volker and his guys,” Campbell said. “The Western men took their lumps a bit and they came back and really put on a performance today.”
“We affirmed that when you come to the Canadian university rowing championships you’ll get first class racing,” Campbell said. “No crew can go into it a past champion expecting it will be a cakewalk.”
“I am very proud of our young guys today, and we probably had the youngest 8 on the water,” Campbell added, nothing the UVic 8 gained five seconds on the time differential with UBC compared to the late October Western Canadian University Championship. “We were right there until the final 100 metres. It’s a super jumping off point four our team.”
UVic’s men graduate only one rower in Ross Bringgold from the 8.
RESULTS from the 2011 CURC Rowing Nationals in Welland, Ont.