Blues women’s heavyweight four Lauren Richardson, Megan Kamachi, Kendra Wells, Robyn Loves, and Jessie MacAlpine earned bronze. PHOTO COURTESY OF AUSTIN SHIH

On October 27 and 28, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues rowing team competed at the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championships held at Henley Island. Already familiar with the course, the group quickly settled into their usual pre-race routines. Athletes huddled together out of the wind beneath U of T’s tent, posted right along the rocky shoreline, and watched their peers glide by. Although the forecast was grim, the weather held up throughout the weekend, producing only some minor wind and a touch of rain on Saturday. The atmosphere on the island was upbeat and hectic, with boats hanging overhead while crews jogged, skipped, and jumped around, doing anything to keep warm.

The Blues novice teams raced on Friday, arriving early to rig their boats and prepare for their morning races. Both the men and women qualified for the finals, which took place shortly after the preliminary heats.

The women were very satisfied with their fourth-place finish, while the men were glad to take home a bronze medal. Later in the afternoon the heats for the varsity athletes began, and different crews came and went quickly. The lightweights were careful with their food, as they would be weighed in the next day, but the heavyweight rowers happily downed bagels and peanut butter as they watched their teammates race. The novice rowers bused back to Toronto late that afternoon, while the rest stayed overnight in St. Catharines for their finals the next morning.

Relieved to wake up to relatively calm water, the athletes cycled through their races — many were in multiple boats and had to race several times. Although the regatta was dominated by rowing powerhouses Western University and Brock University, U of T ended the tournament with 141 points overall and several podium finishes. This is especially significant in light of the poor weather leading up to OUAs, which severely hampered the Blues’ ability to practice on the water. Nevertheless, the team performed solidly, taking home six medals.

Andrei Vovk, a longtime fixture on the Blues team, had a strong showing in the men’s lightweight 1x, finishing in 7:07.8 to net a silver. Vovk also took home a bronze from the men’s lightweight 2x category, joined by his partner William Sati, in a solid time of 6:43.26. The men’s heavyweight eight, a spectator favourite, also finished on the podium. The boat, composed of Simon Plenderleith, Terek Been, Chris Hill, Esteban Poveda Torres, Samuel Muise, Alex King, William Sati, and Jacob Koudys, captured third place with a time of 6:02.88.

The women’s eight came in fifth, but they are slotted to race together one last time this season at the Canadian University Rowing Championships in Burnaby. Megan Lewicki and Rachel Dick achieved a silver medal in the women’s lightweight 2 for their time of 7:56.3. The women’s heavyweight four of Lauren Richardson, Megan Kamachi, Kendra Wells, Robyn Loves and Jessie MacAlpine finished in third place at 7:23.39.

For a majority of Blues rowers, this was the final race of the season — and for a few graduating students, the last of their career altogether as Varsity Blues athletes. The rowing season itself is very intense, but also incredibly brief. Finishing on a strong note, the Blues rowers will now begin their winter training to prepare for open water in the spring.

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