Notre Dame’s Golden Girls
Two Notre Dame athletes found their way to the top of the podium twice Sunday at the 75th Annual Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association Championships on Henley Island.
Stella Bittman teamed with Sarah Schaefer, Sophie McQueen and Ella Woodcock early in the day to win the senior women’s quad and then she combined with Madeson Scott to capture the senior women’s double. Scott also won the senior women’s 63-kilogram lightweight single.
Notre Dame senior women’s quad capped a successful season by winning gold at the CSSRA regatta.
Prior to Schoolboy, the boat won the Mother’s Day Regatta.
“It was the consistency of training together and putting the work in,” coach Rhiannon Zahorchak said. “It was definitely an asset to the boat having Stella stroke,” Zahorchak said.
Bittman had a blast in the quad.
“For me, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to get in bigger boats because I compete predominantly in the single so I really enjoyed being with my crew and getting to race crew boats because that is what makes the sport so much fun. It is so much more fun to win with a group of girls than by yourself.”
Bittman felt there were a number of factors that made the boat special.
“We all trust each other and we trust that we are going to win. We have faith in each other and we know that we all want to win together and we are all going to push hard no matter what. We are not going to let up because we all have a common goal that we want to achieve.”
The crew had a couple of close calls during the regatta, including Bittman catching a crab near the start in one of the races.
“It is a little bit rough up there but we recovered super fast and we don’t get frustrated with each other which is another thing which makes this boat so special. When we make mistakes, we encourage each other to pull through, get out of it and keep on racing.”
Scott’s victory in the senior women’s 63-kilogram lightweight single was her first at the high school level after COVID wiped out the first two years of her high school rowing career.
The 16-year-old started rowing at a summer camp with the South Niagara Rowing Club when she was 11.
“I was just doing it as a summer activity and then I joined with my high school,” she said.
A little over a year ago, she began training at the Ontario NextGen Performance Centre in Welland.
“That is where I can continue my rowing career and I love it there.”
The centre has been crucial to her development.
“It has done everything. I have never thought I could have gone this far with my rowing career and it has just opened so many opportunities for me that I could never have imagined for myself.”
She was thrilled to earn her first Schoolboy gold.
“It’s great, It was a super competitive race because I was in there with my close friend Clara (Van Dyk). It was excellent to be able to challenge each other. We row together every day at the NextGen Centre and it was super awesome to push each other on the water.”
Earlier this spring, Scott and Stella Bittman won gold in the junior women’s double at the Stotesbury Cup in Philadelphia. Scott is enjoying the chance to wear a Notre Dame singlet for the first time.
“It is amazing and it makes all the training worth it. We train six days a week, twice a day and it gets to be a lot sometimes,” Scott said. “But the racing and the successes and stuff make it all worthwhile.”
Scott is looking forward to a busy summer. At the end of June, she will head to Victoria to try out for the Canadian junior national team.
“Myself and some of my teammates from the performance centre will be heading to B.C.”
Crews will have to achieve a certain time standard in order to be sent by Rowing Canada to the worlds.
She has big goals for her rowing career.
“I want to row in university and that has been a big journey for me his year. I am trying to figure out what my next steps are but I am speaking to a lot of great schools and I am excited where this journey is going to take me.”
She is hoping to row in the States.
Bittman and Scott cruised to a convincing triumph in the double.
“We were excited for this one,” Scott said. “We had a really good go at Stotes so we wanted to do it again.”
Bittman said their confidence was high coming off so much recent success.
“We approach every race wanting to win, so I don’t know if that helps the mindset, but it does help with confidence,” she said.