The Western Mustangs women’s rowing team won their fourth consecutive national banner on Nov. 6. The team claimed a medal in every event to earn the overall title of national champs: two gold, two silver and two bronze.
“I’m on cloud nine,” said Mustangs head rowing coach Volker Nolte. “I must say I’m very happy to be the coach of this team. The athletes surprise me over and again with all the great results they can produce.”
The team has the second most national championships in Canada, with seven to their name. Only the University of Victoria can claim that they have more titles, with a total of 11.
“We knew that winning a fourth consecutive national title would put us as the only women's team to be able to do this,” said fifth-year Mustangs rower Jill Moffatt in an email. “We went in with the goal of not just performing well, but leaving a legacy behind us.”
Despite being the three time reigning national champions, the team was an underdog this year after some of their best rowers graduated or had become ineligible, having already competed for five years. This year the team had to push and really step up their game in order to pull through with a victory. If they had finished one place lower in any of the events, they would not have won the national title.
“The odds were actually against us, we knew we would be up against very tough competition,” said Nolte. “One person who took on herself to step up and really lead this team and pull the team to a higher standard was Jill Moffatt.”
Moffatt, a lightweight rower, won gold in the heavyweight singles event, which was the first race of the day. Just over an hour later, she was racing again, and managed to win silver despite being exhausted, only missing out on the main prize by one tenth of a second.
“It was such an uplift for the whole team, you could feel this energy going throughout the whole team,” said Nolte. “From then on in it was only fight, and really, everyone did to their maximum.”
Moffatt, who learned to row at Western, is not only the leader of the team in the boat, but is the leader of the team on paper as well, serving as captain of the entire rowing team, both men and women.
“I was lucky to have seen how leaders on the team, who have now graduated, stepped up and really laid the groundwork for us to be so successful,” said Moffatt. “I hope that I can somewhat embody what my former teammates have shown me.”
Nolte attributes the teams success to their emphasis on teamwork and commitment. The team begins training in August, and trains year-round, even in the off-season. As well, a dedicated coaching staff like the one here at Western helps build a program as dominant as Nolte’s.
“Our program and coaching staff is absolutely phenomenal, so I've always had faith that we could achieve this,” said Moffatt.
“It’s a long term project with consistent coaching staff which I’m extremely proud of,” said Nolte. “The help I get from our coaches here and the trainer, they’re very focused and work hard for the whole year.”