Nothing is sweeter than redemption.
After an unexpected upset to Queen’s last season, Western’s men’s and women’s rowing teams trained intensively for a year and fought to regain the Ontario University Athletics Championships title.
“This year we had huge turnover. A lot of members graduated so we had a lot of rookies come in. It is a different dynamic, but it has worked out well so far,” heavyweight double-gold medalist Sarah Black said.
This year, the OUA championships were hosted by Brock University at the Henley Island course on Oct. 24.
The Mustangs returned home from St. Catharines with gold medals and championship banners in hand. Western’s rowing program added to its impressive record, winning four OUA banners in the past five years.
“It was nice for everyone to step up and maintain Western’s winning reputation,” president of the Western rowing student athlete executive and men’s lightweight contender Tim Myers said. “It was by far our best performance of the year.”
All season there has been stiff competition between Western, Brock and Queen’s.
“For the men, we consider Brock to be our main competition. We’re a very young boat whereas Brock has had a lot of experience and a lot of time together,” men’s heavyweight Sean Addison said before the regatta.
In the men’s category, Western finished first with 80 points, Brock came in second with 78 points, and Queen’s followed in third place with 73 points.
On the women’s side, Western won the gold with 98 points. Brock and Queen’s also made the podium with 93 and 63 points respectively.
“It was a complete team performance,” Myers noted. “With the points working the way they do, you need the entire team to do well and not just a couple of standouts because there are so many events and so many other strong schools.”
In a surprising result, Paul Hammond finished second in the heavyweight men’s single competition. Hammond was slated to finish lower in his race, but managed to earn his team some crucial extra points.
“Some individuals that we wouldn’t really have expected to perform stepped up this weekend,” Myers said.
For the men it came down to the last race of the day – the men’s heavyweight eight.
“Where you watch from you can only see the middle section of the race so you’re not really too sure how it’s going to finish. They were leading Brock by about half a boat at that point, and it’s the first time they had been leading them all year,” Myers explained.
After the points were tallied, Western edged out Brock, securing the gold by a margin of two points.
The women’s team also performed well, improving building on their impressive showings at regattas from earlier in the season.
“The lightweight women did a lot better than they did a couple of weeks ago. The heavyweight women are a bit of an exception because they’ve dominated the entire season, and they kept doing it this weekend,” Myers said.
A key performer for the women was Lauren Wells. She won both the heavyweight and lightweight singles events, beating national squad teammate Katya Huurman.
In the week before the championships, Black discussed how the team was preparing for the regatta.
“We ramp up training right before the race, and then we start to taper off two or three days before to make sure that we peak at the right time,” she said.
With the goal of winning the OUA banner from the beginning, the Mustangs focused on training hard all season and not just the few weeks before the OUA finals.
“Our season accumulates from unimportant regattas to very important regattas. It’s all about the one race at the end,” Addison said before the regatta. “[For us], it’s as much about the training and showing up to practice as it is about the races during the season.”
The team is practicing every day, twice a day this week in preparation of keeping their winning streak alive at the Canadian University Rowing Championships this weekend in Montreal.
“We’ve won every race in Canada that we have done, so we know we are on the right path,” Black said.