Fighting Irish capture the prize for top boys' program at national regatta in St. Catharines
By Alistair Burns
The B.C. Catholic
The Vancouver College rowers came home triumphant from the 67th Annual Regatta of the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association June 1-3 in St. Catharines, Ont., earning the points trophy for best boys' performance.
"After 14 years of coaching, this is the greatest highlight of my career," exclaimed Dereck Schwandt, the head coach. "At VC, I always find some awesome kids to work with, and all 25 kids (15 seniors, 10 juniors) came home with a medal of some colour."
The 25, from the college's middle and high schools, were divided for the races by age, number of crew to a boat, and weight. They competed as single rowers, doubles, quads (fours), and eights.
"We had the fastest time in the heats in order to get to the semi-finals. That was unexpected," remembered Lucas deGelder.
Now a VC graduate, class of 2012, he held the stroke position in what he termed the "Heavy Four." He and his teammates went on to a bronze-medal finish in the final.
The stroke position is the rower farthest astern, just in front of the coxswain, who steers. The position is critical; the stroke rower sets the rate of rowing for the rest of the crew to follow. Also, with the cacophony of sounds during the race, the stroke repeats the commands of the coxswain to the rest of the crew.
"Basically, the bigger the boat, the more points at stake; the higher your boat finishes, the more points your school receives at the national regatta," deGelder explained.
Unlike football or hockey, in which high-school athletes compete weekly, rowing regattas are relatively rare events. There are about five annual high-school regattas in southern B.C., split between Vancouver Island and False Creek.
"The feeling of racing is exhilarating. It's a satisfying conclusion to being on the team for five years," deGelder said.
He credits the rowing program for instilling in him a good work ethic and teaching him time management. Rowers striving for academic excellence face limited study time. During the season's peak in the spring, they're out on the water 14 hours a week.
"Rowing's completely unique: in other sports coaches can call time-outs and change the strategy, but the responsibility for rowers is all theirs once the race starts," coach Schwandt explained.
This is the second consecutive year the Irish crew has captured the prize for top boys' program at the national finals, held annually in St. Catharines. Schwandt hopes to try for a third consecutive championship next year.
DeGelder will be heading east to McGill University on a rowing scholarship, and will enroll in the civil engineering program. "They're not a rowing powerhouse, but I'm looking forward to it."