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By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA (ISN) – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s and women’s rowing teams are prepared for their annual head-to-head battle with the UBC Thunderbirds this Saturday, Mar. 24.

The one-day event pits the Vikes against the Birds, and only the Birds. The Brown Cup Challenge is now in its 19th meeting for the women and 21st for the men.
In 2011, the Vikes swept the Brown Cup Challenge. The women won their 17th Brown Cup title in 18 appearances and the men earned their 17th title in 20 appearances. The Vikes blanked the Thunderbirds in all five races, including four varsity contests and closed the weekend off winning the alumni race.
“We had the better of UBC in the fall,” said Vikes women’s head coach Rick Crawley. “From what I saw at the Elk Lake Spring Regatta, though, (UBC) has worked really hard. Our boat is moving really well and is feeling confident after getting our first victory in a long time at the annual Oregon State Dual Meet (on Mar. 3)”
For the women, Crawley will be looking towards coxswain Megan Smith to provide leadership for the crew. Crawley said, “Megan has improved leaps and bounds and is really keen. She called a great race in oregon and has done an excellent job taking charge.”
The Vikes will also have veteran Ingrid Braul (Vancouver, BC) in the stroke seat who had an impressive lightweight season in the fall. The majority of the power, however, will fall in the hands of Erika Shaw(Victoria, B.C.) and Alyssa Weninger (Unity, Sask.), the five and six seats, respectively.
“Alyssa and Erica are very powerful and they have been helping us out a lot this year,” said Crawley. “These girls haven given us a lower crew average in our erg testing scores and that translates directly into more boat speed. You need all eight people going together. We are getting better and better each day.”
On the men’s side, Vikes head coach Howie Campbell will be look to veterans Brendan Downey (Victoria, BC) and Will O’Connell (Victoria, BC) in the stroke-seven combo to lead his crew. The Vikes men are in a rebuilding year and the Downey and O’Connell pair-up was a very recent change.
“Brendan is our team captain and has been a consistent leader,” said Campbell. “Brendan has shown such good leadership and now that he is paired with Will in stroke, this has only upped the opportunity for us to have a shot at this year’s title. Will is one of our strongest in the boat and has been doing his job to support the rhythm and drive the boat along.”
The Vikes men will be after their 18th Brown Cup title against a strong UBC crew that defeated the Vikes in their last meeting with a nine second gap at the 2011 Elk Lake Spring Regatta.
“UBC does have a strong crew this year,” said Campbell. “We are definitely rebuilding this year so, it will be a challenge but judging by the rowing in the last few days, the boys believe the are up to making a really good race out of it… We know we will have a gap to close.”
The 2012 official Brown Cup race begins at 3:55 p.m. for the men and 4:00 p.m. for the women. Additional races begin earlier in the afternoon.
The men’s and women’s alumni races begin at 1:30 p.m. The reserve races will begin at 3:15 p.m. for the men and 3:20 p.m. for women.
The highly anticipated varsity race will start at Tillicum Narrows bridge and travel 3-km to the Johnson Street bridge in downtown Victoria. Great vantage points for viewing are on the Galloping Goose train trestle at the 1.5-km mark and the Bay Street bridge at the 2.0-km mark.
Following the race events, the teams will gather for the annual rowing banquet where several athletes will be honoured. For both the men and women, there will be a most valuable rower, most outstanding rower and most improved rower announced. Additionally, there will be rookie and novice of the year awards.
A special award, developed in the spirit of Tony Zasada, will also be announced. A member from both the UVic men’s and women’s rowing programs will be named as the annual Tony Zasada Award recipients, as voted by their teammates.
A full list of results and award winners will be available on Sunday, March 25 at