A brisk and windy weekend saw the Martlet and Redmen rowing teams compete in the Olympic Basin for the National Championships hosted by McGill. A record 25 universities arrived in Montreal on Saturday for the two-day affair, with over 300 athletes registered to compete in 12 different events. Although seven McGill teams advanced to the A-level finals, it was Western University who came out on top in both the men’s and women’s divisions, followed by the University of British Columbia (UBC). The Redmen rowers finished the weekend ranked sixth in the nation with 44 points, while the Martlets placed an impressive fifth overall with 51 points.
Kelly Donovan, a freshman out of Saint-Lazare, Quebec, led the way for the Martlets, finishing fifth in the heavyweight women’s single A competition with a time of 9:24.75. Adding to the results were the women’s heavyweight eight, who also finished fifth in a tough field that included UBC, Queen’s, and Western. Previous gold medal winners for the heavyweight women’s pair event at last year’s competition, junior Luce Bourbeau and masters student Kalyna Franco, fell short of their repeat aspirations, finishing in sixth place.
The Redmen notched four berths in the A-finals after Saturday’s time trials. Junior lightweight single rower, Mark York, placed sixth in the contest despite winning a bronze medal at the OUA Championships. High hopes for sophomore heavyweight pairs Lucas de Gelder and Thomas Portsmouth were crushed after the twosome was excluded from the official results.
Despite the tough individual results, the Martlets and Redmen finished fifth and sixth overall respectively—a remarkable achievement for a team that is not yet fully-funded by McGill.
“McGill [finished] in the top six out of 26 teams in Canada for rowing,” Head Coach Philip Hedri said. “[This] is outstanding because we are one of the programs that is still volunteer run, and we’re going against programs that are level-one sports at their schools [….] The calibre of rowing in our program is getting stronger. I think that our ultimate goal is to become a level-one, fully-funded sport at McGill. I think that will allow us to take these results to a whole other level and be able to compete for the banner.”
The Martlets and Redmen entered nationals fresh off of strong performances at the Head of the Charles Regatta and the OUA Championships. This season’s results have exceeded Coach Hedri’s expectations for the team.
“On the women’s side, two bronze medals at the OUA Championships is huge,” Hedri said. “We have one bronze medal from [York] that was also a landmark moment. I’m really proud of the women who got a silver at the Head of the Charles. I think that those are outstanding results.”
Moving forward, the team has a bevy of young talent set to lead the program as it hopefully progresses to full-team status at McGill. This is a crucial stage for the rowing team, in which any and all experience against high-level competition is beneficial in moving the program forward. Portsmouth and de Gelder from the Redmen have been chosen to represent Rowing Canada at the National Rowing Championships Regatta, set to take place later this month. For the Martlets, Ester Jamison and Kelly Donovan have shown significant improvement, and look to lead the women’s rowing team in the future.
“[Jamison] was a novice last year, which means that she had never rowed before,” Hadri said. “She was basically initiated to the sport of rowing through [McGill]. And now one year later, she [won] two bronze medal crews at OUA [….] Same for [Donovan], who is a Montrealer. This is her first season rowing with McGill. She made it into two bronze medal boats, and she placed fifth in the time trials in the women’s singles.”
It has been a season of definite progress for the rowing teams. McGill should build upon this year’s success and improve the program for the years to come.