There’s gold out west
Matthew Winslade and Val Hudson made history at the 76th Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association Regatta Sunday on Henley Island.
The 18-year-old, Grade 12 students captured gold in the men’s senior pair becoming the first medal winners for West Niagara Secondary School.
“It’s pretty awesome, being honest,” Hudson said. “Hopefully, I get come back next year and get another one but we’ll have to see.”
The pair placed second previously when they rowed together for Grimsby Secondary School before it amalgamated with Beamsville Secondary to become West Niagara.
Hudson said the windy conditions brought out the best in them.
“The weather was a lot rougher but it was just more overall discipline that we had from last year,” he said. “It was really rough the whole way through. As we came down. our discipline got better and more well adjusted towards it. We had two big crabs during it but we just put it behind us and rowed through it each and every stroke.”
E.L. Crossley Junior women’s 59-kilogram coxed quad of Evelyn Stacey, Keira Smith, Natalie Heaslip, Sarah Graham, Avery Coles kicked off the finals Sunday with a gold medal.
“The start was pretty good,” Coles said. “We’ve been practising starts. We had a little bit of trouble and some head wind. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle.”
Coles, Heaslip and Graham won the same event last year.
“And we’ve raced with Evelyn and Keira before so we had a pretty good idea (we would do well),” Coles added.
Stacey later combined with Kayla Bray, Samantha Wimbush, Claire Leavens, Emmerson Darling, Juliette Freure, Malarie Jones, Emma Goedhart, Shane Irvine to win the final race of the day, the prestigious senior women’s eight.
“It was awesome,” said Stacey, a 16-year-old, Grade 11 student. “We just wanted everyone to try their best and focus on our goal of making it our best race.”
The crew overcame a slow start.
“We had some missteps at the start but we cleaned it up crossed the finish, she said. “It’s really important (to recover). It was great how well we got our heads back in the boat.”
Stacey said chemistry is key to the crew’s success.
“The friendship is a big part of it,” she said. “I’m super proud.”
Darling and Freure also took home gold based on their Saturday semifinal performance in the senior women’s 63-kilogram lightweight double.
The win was the third gold for the crew who also placed first last year in the junior women’s lightweight quad and junior women’s four.
“It’s hard work,” Darling said.
“There were definitely hard parts of the races and some parts that were fun,” Freure added. “We usually say to try and win it in the first 500 or 1,000.”
Rheagan Hamm, Kailey McKimm of Denis Morris combined to take home gold in the junior women’s double. Both are 16-year-old, Grade 10 students.
“It was a little hard with the two semifinals so we were very iffy about it but we were pretty confident,” McKimm said. “The first 500 was close but then we pulled away. The hard part was keeping in the mental game.”
The crew were coming off a gold at Stotesbury.
“We were hoping we could keep the streak going on,” Hamm added.
The St. Francis crew of Giselle Medina, Jack Ciocca, Lucas Mason, Luke Chess and Russell Robinson adjusted on the fly to capture gold in the men’s junior quad. All are Grade 10 students.
“We came out and knew what we were planning,” Ciocca said. “It was a different than what we thought. We thought we were going to row (Saturday) and come out today for the final. At the end of the day we’re athletes and we have to adapt.
“We knew we were going to put ourselves in hard race. We built towards this.”
Ciocca said the crew was prepared to pay the price to win.
“We knew maybe it would be maybe seven of the worst minutes of our life but it’s going to give us a lifetime of happiness, what we achieved.”
The weather didn’t seem to bother the crew.
“We row in this weather every day. We don’t take days off. This is what we row in. We’re used to this.”
The crew also captured gold at the Mother’s Day Regatta.
Eden’s Kennedy Bartel, Isabella Essig, Colin Hughes and Matti Essig combined for gold in the mixed quad.
“We were expecting to get on the podium. We had our eyes on the gold from the start,” Hughes said.
Hughes said the crew work well together, not surprising since two members are sisters and everyone gets along.
“We’re pretty good friends and all coachable,” he said. “Our coach has a pretty specific way of rowing and a pretty great guy so we have good chemistry.”
E.L. Crossley’s Andy Nawrocki, James Cuff, Liam Shapland, Mason Kirton, and Dario Cirello earned gold in the men’s senior lightweight 72-kikogram coxed four.
“I think we won by quite a big margin,” Shapland said. “We were confident going into the race. The start was a bit rocky but after 30 seconds we got the hang of it and didn’t let go.”
It was far from business as usual this weekend as regatta officials were forced to make the tough call of cancelling some races Saturday due to inclement weather.
“This has been by far the hardest decision this regatta committee has made because it’s so sad, but we couldn’t take that chance,” CSSRA president Mike Purcer said.
Purcer couldn’t believe how bad the weather was.
“Wind came up — very severe winds — and we went as long as we could. We were going through heats and semifinals. By about the time event 20 finished the wind was so strong there were whitecaps at the gates and one boat was almost sinking.”
Purcer said conditions did not improve enough later Saturday to restart the regatta.
“The top 300 metres, the waves were very bad,” he said. “The decision was made to cancel races for the day and later that night the regatta committee met to consider what were the best options.”
Purcer remembers a similar situation in 2014 that cancelled all of Sunday’s finals.
“This what they’re told at the beginning,” he said. “This is a normal procedure for us. We’ve had this happen before and they are told in the event of cancellations medals will be awarded on the time out of their heat.”
Medal and trophy presentations were made on Henley Island instead of following each race at the grandstand at the finish line.
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