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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
Podium placements and promise in L.U. rowing pipeline
by Randy Pascal

The Laurentian Voyageurs’ rowing pipeline is alive and well, according to head coach Amanda Schweinbenz, who knows a thing or two about developing elite level sculling talent.

With the likes of former L.U. rowers Carling Zeeman and Curtis Halladay now having moved on to noteworthy accomplishments at the national and international level, Schweinbenz bids adieu to Lo-Ellen Park graduate Emily Jago, leaving on a high note.

Jago and teammate Hayley Chase combined to capture gold in the women’s heavyweight 2000m doubles event at the OUA championships at the end of October, finishing four seconds ahead of the second place boat representing Queen’s University.

The Female Athlete of the Year at Laurentian in 2014-2015, Jago also went on to stage a dramatic finish with Sydney Boyes of Western in the singles 2000m distance, with Boyes crossing the line just over a second ahead of Jago.

“The athletes performed up to what we expected them to,” said Schweinbenz. “With Emily and Hayley, we thought they absolutely would medal, and saw the potential to win. We had a lot of younger athletes, some inexperienced athletes who raced well against some very tough competition.”

The Jago-Boyes showdown, however, really left an impression. “It was a fantastic race,” noted Schweinbenz. “There is no shame or problem coming in second when you have a brilliant race against some really great competition.”

Podium placements, at provincials, speak volumes to the work that Schweinbenz has done with the rowing program at Laurentian, as she prepares to guide another wave of young athletes that include the likes of Aidan McKenna, Hayden Kelso, Nicholas Vanderwoude, Madeleine McConnell, Michael Nolan and Bronwyn Wearring.

“We try and set ourselves up such that our rowers have their best racing experience, and their best races possible, at the championships,” said Schweinbenz. “And that’s what they did.” In fact, it would be fair to say that the entire structure of the sport, at least as it is contested at the OUA level, is designed to recognize the challenges of expanding the scope of rowing, while fully understanding that the exposure to athletes often comes well after many of their other favourite sporting endeavours.

“Traditionally, the day before the championships, we run what’s called the developmental regatta, for novices and JV teams,” explained Schweinbenz. “We are a transition sport, a late development sport. We have people who start rowing at university.”

Thankfully, the success of those who have come to Laurentian before is paying dividends for the energetic professor and her crew. “We are getting some really great interest,” she said. “We always want people who are keen, people who are willing to train. We train hard, we train a lot. And we want people who are committed to that.”

And while that might seem like a surefire recipe to chase away potential prospects, there are those at L.U. who thrive on the gauntlet being thrown in their direction. “We’ve got four great novices coming out of the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program,” said Schweinbenz.

“I think they will do really well if they stick with it, in three years. We are not going to be a Western, with 97 athletes. They have more coaches than we have athletes.” With the indoor season behind them, the spirited rowers will take to the ergometer, albeit in moderation.

“They’ll have maybe two or three rowing sessions a week,” said Schweinbenz of the off-season ritual. “I want them doing other things. Nobody wants to sit on the rowing machine all of the time. You would lose your mind.”

“They run, they swim, they do intramurals, they do weights.” And come this time next year, it’s a pretty good bet they will continue to do Laurentian University proud.

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