The Gaels’ rowing team thrived under hostile weather conditions.
The women’s team overcame high winds, whipping rain and near-zero temperatures to win the OUA championship in St. Catharine’s on Saturday. The men’s team placed third.
Nearly every competitor on the women’s side won a medal, to finish with 95 team points over Western’s 80.
“We were saying all season that the work we put in over the past year — especially during the fall — was leading us to this moment,” team captain Elise Hoffman said. “Our racing [this weekend] was just a product of that.”
The women won gold medals in the heavyweight eight, lightweight four and heavyweight double races. The lightweight eight finished second, while the heavyweight four and the lightweight single both captured third.The women’s win in the heavyweight eight was their first in over a decade.
“[Winning the eight] was an absolutely amazing accomplishment for us,” Hoffman said. “It was such a good feeling to cross that finish line.”
The men’s team lacked the depth to improve on their overall third place finish from last year, but made a strong showing on the lightweight side.
The lightweight eight captured a gold medal for the first time since 2008, marking the best finish on the men’s side. Other medal finishes included third place in the heavyweight four and the lightweight four.
Men’s lightweight rower Patrick McCrady said the big improvement for the lightweight eight came with a greater veteran presence.
“We have a lot of guys thinking about or pushing towards under-23 worlds and a lot of guys going to Canada Summer Games,” McCrady said. “You get the coaching benefit of other high performance programs and they bring that to Queen’s.”
St. Catharine’s harsh weather created unique challenges for all rowers at the Regatta. McCrady said fellow men’s rower Alan Payno Montoya was borderline hypothermic after competing in two consecutive races.
“It was four degrees, pouring rain — as soon as you went outside everything was soaked,” McCrady said. “We had to go out racing in freezing cold temperatures.”
Regatta officials were forced to shorten the course length from the standard 2,000 m length down to 1,000 due to the conditions, with wind speeds measured at around 30 km per hour.
“You’re getting amped up for a two-kilometre race for months, to find out an hour before you launch that you’re racing a different race,” McCrady said.
Gaels head coach John Armitage didn’t believe the shorter course affected results, but he said it presented athletes with a different challenge.
“Physiologically it’s quite different,” he said. “You do your finish, only a 500-metre body as opposed to 1,500. [It’s] much more of a sprint event.”
Both teams exceeded expectations, but Armitage said the young women’s team did well to claim their seventh OUA banner in 10 years.
“As a very young team going into the season I did not know what to expect, but this was just about the strongest recruiting class that we had ever had,” he said.
“My impression is that we went over the moon in terms of expectations.”
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