Mercuri rises to the top
Hailey Mercuri capped her high school rowing career Sunday with her second straight gold medal in the single at the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association championships.
After winning the midweight Schoolboy single last year, the Grade 12 student at Grimsby and District Secondary School added the senior single against a tough field. That gives her a career total of three CSSRA gold when adding the gold she mined in the double in 2017.
“It was pretty cool and I forgot this was my last (high school) race ever,” the 18-year-old said. “I am going to miss it and it is kind of sad, but it is a good way to end.”
She described Sunday’s final as one of the hardest races she has ever competed in.
“Everyone was super strong, but really the only change was me and the things that I have learned throughout high school,” the St. Catharines Rowing Club member said.
She has soaked up the rowing knowledge in her four years of high school and is not taking anything for granted.
“It is to be thankful for everyone around you,” she said. “Now that I am going away next year, I thank my parents (Basil and Tania) more and I am going to miss them.
“I just know I couldn’t have done any of this without them and the same goes for my coaches. I have amazing coaches and I have learned this year how amazing they are and the amount of effort they put in for me.”
She also thanked her teammates.
“Maybe in previous years I didn’t realize how special it is and that made it that much more important for me to win that race.”
Next up for the talented teen before she heads off to scholarship row for the University of Oklahoma are the junior national team trials in Victoria, B.C.
“I am heading there on my graduation day so that’s going to be fun,” she said, with a laugh. “Hopefully I’ll make it to that and maybe Canada will send a quad (to the worlds).”
The national team trials have a bit of a surreal feel for Mercuri.
“I never thought I would make it there and it’s pretty big,” she said. “I remember I was the only Grade 9 on the team at one point and I wasn’t that strong.
“Now here I am, pretty fast in Canada and all of North America.”
As soon as the Canada experience wraps up, she will head off to her first year of university. She can’t wait to get started.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people,” she said. “I know I have already become close friends with half of the people in my race today and it’s pretty cool to know them and have a relationship with your competition.”
“Now we can work together, give advice and share each other’s secrets.”
Rowing coach Michelle Fisher said there is no secret as to what makes Mercuri successful.
“She really likes to challenge herself and she doesn’t shy away from training hard,” she said. “She trains to the point sometimes where she has to pull back a little because she pushes herself to the limit.”
Fisher describes Mercuri as extremely coachable.
“She has one of the best sculling techniques and I would use her as a model,” she said. “Because of her stature, some of the others pull bigger erg scores, but this is an example that it takes a whole person and she exemplifies that.”
Fisher has seen big strides in Mercuri throughout the two years of summer and fall rowing that she has coached her through.
“She got stronger and she dedicated herself to doing the necessary work in the winter with core and strength work,” she said. “She was midweight last year and was able to go to the open weight division this year.”
Included in Sunday’s open single race was a member of last year’s Canadian junior national team.
“The field was so good and the race was so tight and I think Hailey is proving she can go to that next level,” Fisher said.