Women’s pairs on the final day of the National Rowing Championships in St. Catharines, Ont. Photo: Austin Cameron
It was Mother Nature’s mea culpa Saturday at the National Rowing Championships.
With the sun shining and the winds calm on Martindale Pond in St. Catharines, she was clearly in the mood to do better by athletes rowing in the A/B finals after weather forced competition to be suspended Friday.
Layla Balooch, however, did her best. The Burnaby native rowed to a second-place finish in the women’s singles A finals, securing a silver medal and the U23 women’s title.
“I feel like I pulled a personal best for the year and I’m very happy with how I finished,” Balooch said about her 7:39.62 race. “I had my race plan, I made the calls and I executed them perfectly.”
And she did it as the only U23 competitor in her race. Balooch was up against National Team members Carling Zeeman, who came in first at 7:33.63, Alyssa Weninger, Kerry Schaffer and Emily Cameron, and university athlete Emily Jago.
“Carling definitely sets the standard in Canada,” Balooch said. “The standard she’s setting is a challenge to the rest of female scullers in Canada but it’s what we need.”
Lightweight Elizabeth Fenje set her own standards this competition. Fenje, who hails from Victoria, started making technical changes to her performance a month ago. They paid off when she rowed to first place in 7:47.30 in the singles A finals Saturday.
“My focus was on making these changes throughout the middle of my race and that’s what helped me today,” Fenje said. “I’m really excited. It was a great way to end off the year of training.”
It was also a relief for men’s lightweight first-place finisher Nick Pratt.
Pratt, from Kingston, admitted it was stressful racing against his teammates in the lightweight men’s fours at last summer’s World Championships and World Rowing Cup.
“Everyone is on the same level playing field,” said Pratt, who rowed a 7:11.05 race. “You know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses but they know your tricks as well. You just have to put your head down, do your thing and hope for the best.”
Top performers at the National Rowing Championships were recognized at an awards ceremony held after racing finished. Saturday’s results are available online at regattacentral.com.
In addition, medalists at the 2015 Pan Am Games and World Championships were feted for their accomplishments.
For the second year in a row, some of Canada’s most promising athletes attending a Canadian university were awarded the Future Athlete Bursary. Yara Ensminger of Don Rowing Club, Patrick Keane of St. Andrews and Victoria City Rowing Club, Vlad Timinsky of Burnaby Lake Rowing Club, and Luke Gadston of Leander Boat Club each received a scholarship worth $2,400. The Future Athlete Bursary was made possible thanks to a generous annual gift from a private donor.
The National Rowing Championships begin the last and most important ten months of the quadrennial, and will be the first of many selection events for the 2016 Olympics in Rio held throughout the year. Typically held in November, these championships are held earlier this year to allow the athletes more time to prepare for the 2016 Summer Games.