Gaels’ golden rowers

Queen’s rowers win five gold medals at national championships on weekend

Five members of Queen’s rowing team walked away from this weekend’s Rowing Canada National Rowing Championships with gold medals around their necks.

Queen’s head coach John Armitage said the victories will bring attention and acclaim to his program, both inside and outside the university.

“People are sitting up and taking notice of Queen’s rowing, both at the provincial and national levels,” he said. “There’s not many Queen’s teams that bring home national championships.”

Armitage said six of the successful Gaels are key members of the men’s lightweight eight team.

Men’s captain Rares Crisan and teammate Morgan Jarvis claimed first place in the senior men’s lightweight pair, while Rob Ballard and Ryan Meyers won the U23 men’s lightweight pair, John Barr won the U23 men’s lightweight single and Nick Pratt earned a silver medal in the lightweight single.

Other finishers include Mike Wilkinson, who placed second in the men’s U23 lightweight single, with Greg McNally and Rob Thom placing 4th and 5th. Katya Herman and Jenny Hogsden finished third and fourth in the senior women’s lightweight single.

Armitage said the next challenge will be to weld their individual talents into a cohesive unit.

“With all the success at the national level, our challenge as coaches is to use these guys to develop an OUA champion,” he said. “We’ve got huge pressure on us as coaches; we have the ingredients, but can we bake the cake?”

Armitage said converting individual success into team success isn’t easy.

“It’s anything but a can’t-miss situation,” he said. “There’s a synchronicity and a chemistry that we’ve got to be able to knit together. … There’s a lot of art to putting together a solid rowing eight. You may have your eight fastest people not be the fastest team.” Armitage said he’s particularly eager for a victory in the lightweight eight. The team finished third in that race in the last two OUA championships.

“We’ve got that cloud kind of hanging over us,” he said.

Men’s lightweight coach Stu Robinson works specifically with the lightweight teams, including the eight. He said these performances show that his team members have the necessary skill, but the remaining challenge is to get them to work together, even more important in the eights than it is in the pairs or fours.

“There’s a lot more bonding that needs to go on in the eight,” he said. “You have to be able to gel the team. You can’t just have eight individual guys, you’ve got to have a cohesive team.”

Robinson said a lot of the difficulty comes from a shift in mental approach, as the team members have to focus on working with each other.

“The biggest thing is just bringing all the guys and their talents to the boat and bringing them together,” he said. “It’s just a matter of as a crew believing they can do it, they can make it work.”

Robinson said he’s eager to win the OUA championship in the eights, given the team’s recent struggles there.

“We’d like to bring some prestige back to the eights,” he said.

Other members of the team excelled at the Head of the Rideau regatta in Ottawa on Sunday, where Queen’s won seven races. Jamie Christian won the men’s varsity single event and Graham Foster and Andrew Joyce won the varsity double. Angie Zardo and Amelia Wilkinson won the women’s lightweight double and Nicole Campbell and Heather Sawula won the women’s double. The Gaels were also victorious in the men’s varsity four, the women’s lightweight four and the women’s open eight.

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