The University of Victoria will host the 34th Monster Erg Indoor Rowing Championship this weekend, Feb. 3, and it will be the first event without recently retired head coach Rick Crawley at the helm. This will be the first event for Vikes women’s rowing head coach Barney Williams but only in the coaching capacity. Williams has previously competed in the event, however, as a Vike.
“This is one of the longest standing indoor rowing events in North America,” described Williams. “One of the most well-known international indoor events was the Crash B’s that ran out of Bston but it has since folded.”
“The history as far as the name of the event is a bit folklore but really, it’s that true understanding that it’s one of the toughest tests in our sport. There’s a bit of an aggression and mindset that a ‘monster’ would have to be able to overcome the challenge.”
The Vikes women’s rowing team will compete in either the Under 23 or open categories and as either heavyweights or lightweights. Competitors max their strength and speed in a 2000-m erg race pushing personal bests.
On the lightweight side, Sarah Craven could cement her spot in the national rankings with her performance this weekend, while heavyweights Piper Battersby and McKenna Simpson will also be top contendors for the team.
“The spirit of indoor racing is a confirmation of the water rankings,” said Williams. “There is certainly the feeling that there is a correlation between the two. For our athletes, indoor rowing is one of the biggest areas of improvement. Their physiology and strength will be tested but I think we have made some great gains over the winter month of training.”
Vikes Larissa McKinlay, Gillian Cattet and Layla Balooch have aged out of the U23 category and will contend for lowest times in the open event, while Danae McCulloch and Tess Mackay-Pettyjohn will be the first years to watch.
The event will feature a flight 24 ergs, with events starting as early as 9:30 a.m. with the pinnacle moments being captured from 12:30-2:00 p.m. The event is an opportunity for the entire rowing community to be involved as local clubs Victoria City Rowing Club and Gorge Narrows Rowing Club will be competing, while schools Brentwood, Shawnigan and St. Michael’s will race the Under 19 and 17 categories.
“The feature of this event is the unique proximity a spectator can have to the athlete,” added Williams about the competition atmosphere. “You are so close to the action. You can feel the intensity and witness the severe exhaustion an effort like this leads to. It’s a VO2 max test where athletes are at the extreme point of fatigue. That contact with the racing environment is very rate in this sport. Usually you are on the shore from several 100 meters away.”
The event will also feature a relay event, which has the highest number of participants with over 20-mixed relay events. Each relay has two men and two women who each need to compete 500-m and jump off the erg and switch. Other varsity teams including basketball, soccer and rugby have relay teams will also be competing.
The event gets started at 9:30 a.m. but peak spectacting time is set for 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the CARSA Performance Gym.