Two former members of the Vernon Rowing and Dragon Boat Club are national champions.
The 2023 Canadian University Rowing Championships were held on Burnaby Lake Nov. 11 and 12, and two Vernon rowers, Elena Masyte and Danica Ariano, both alumnae of the Vernon Rowing and Dragon Boat Club, played an instrumental role helping their University of Victoria Women’s team win the Canadian University Rowing Association’s championship banner.
The two-day event started with a time trial. Masyte, rowing as the 2-seat, and her crewmates finished with the second fastest time in the Lightweight Women’s Coxed Four event, clinching their spot in the A final.
They came with their game faces on for Sunday’s sprint race, which saw six boats battling it out, side by side down the 2,000 metre course. With the wind picking up, the crew needed a clean row if they were to stay in contention.
Off the start, Kingston, Ont.’s Queen’s University managed to get out in front, but both UVIC and the crew from University of Western Ontario stayed in fighting distance, putting pressure on the Queen’s crew. In the final 500 metres, UVIC took it up a gear, and pulled ahead of Western, to finish a strong second behind Queen’s and earn valuable team points toward the banner.
The Women’s Eight race was the final event of the regatta. Ariano stroked her crew to a first-place finish in the time trial the day before, by just three seconds over provincial rivals UBC. However, the head-to-head sprint final was anyone’s race, and what Ariano didn’t know was how close the point tally was, with the top three teams, UVIC, Queen’s, and University of British Columbia within three points of each other. A win in the eights would determine the overall winner.
The race was tight out of the blocks, with the teams side by side for the first 15 strokes. The UVIC crew started to edge ahead, and by 500 meters into the race they had a couple seats on Queen’s, UBC, and Western. The crew slowly built their lead to half a boat length by the 1,000-metre mark. Both UBC and Western tried to move on the UVIC boat, but the Vikes kept their composure, rowing long and strong, and emptied the tank in the final sprint, finishing with almost a boat length lead.
The championship banner is a prestigious prize in Canadian University rowing, and this was the second consecutive win for the 14-member UVic women’s team, coached by Jane Gumley. In 2022, Gumley was the first female to win a banner with her team, and this year’s win was confirmation of the great work she has been doing, and the strength of the UVIC’s women’s rowing program.
It was UVIC’s 13th national championship victory. Western Ontario is next with eight.
Since 1997, Vernon Rowing and Dragon Boat Club is a hub for rowers and paddlers on Swan Lake. It consistently strives to provide affordable opportunities for local community to engage in physical activity and improve their physical and mental well-being.