Georgia rowing on my mind
by Randy Pascal
Working with the likes of Carling Zeman and Emily Jago in recent years, Laurentian Voyageurs' coach Amanda Schweinbenz has put in
place the building blocks of an impressive rowing program at the Northern Ontario post-secondary institution.
The group also works hand in hand with members of the Sudbury Rowing Club, a local association whose legacy on the water dates back decades prior to the
afore-mentioned L.U. crew.
No surprise then that the local rowing community is a vibrant one, even during those months of the years where open water in this city is but a distant memory. In
mid-February, for instance, Jago was joined by Lo-Ellen senior Aiden Best, as well as Voyageur freshman Hayley Chase, the trio part of a 50-member
Ontario contingent that travelled to the deep south of the USA to enjoy a week-long training camp.
When it comes to rowing in Georgia, there are few places better equipped than the Richard B. Russell State Park Rowing Centre, a venue that was
tapped by no less than eleven different countries, including the host, in preparation for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
“It was an absolutely wonderful experience,” noted Best, who wandered into rowing in grade 10 when injuries sustained in a car accident forced some time away from
many of the team sports he had grown up with. “We had five or six coaches providing input, so it was a really good technical camp.”
“I learned a lot, and got a lot of kilometres in,” Best continued, as he continues to fine-tune his stroke in anticipation of joining the Laurentian squad when he
begins his studies in Kinesiology in September. “Being in Sudbury, we tend to get a limited amount of time on the water.”
Rowing was likely the furthest thing from the mind of Chase, as the young lady who grew up on a farm outside of Fergus (Ontario) attended a university fair
in March of 2015. “I met Amanda, she mentioned the program, and I didn’t really think anything of it,” recalled Chase, blessed with a 6’1” frame that instantly
caught the eye of her coach.
But a life-long love of competitive ringette had hardly prepared the soon-to-be Sports and Physical Education major for the rigours of countless hours of
practice, either in a boat, or on the ergometer. “It was definitely different muscles that I would not have used for skating,” said Chase with a smile.
“But if you have a good aerobic base, you can start from there and keep building. The first time I came to Sudbury, on March break (2015), I did the erg machine
testing. I excelled in some, I was close in others, and I was far off on some of them.”
And so the development continues, with Schweinbenz exposing her young protegees to a wide-range of rowing related benefits. “Being able to go down was a great
opportunity for both of us, and everyone that was at the camp,” said Best.
“It was nice to be able to get extra strokes in, to be able to get better for the upcoming season. In rowing, there are a lot of things going on, all at once,” he
added. “Amanda covers everything, she’s a phenomenal coach.”
“But sometimes the way that someone presents something to you can help. They (coaches) are all trying to say the same thing, but with a different perspective, a
different way to describe things.”