In 2010, the Vikes men’s rowing team won gold at the Canadian University Rowing Championships. Coming in second last season by a mere one point behind Brock University, they are raring to go for the 2013 season. Assistant captain and 2012-13 rookie of the year Alex Walker, 21, says the team’s main goal is to bring back the gold to Victoria.
The team is exploding with raw talent and high-level experience. Walker and 22-year-old captain Will O’Connell both represented Canada at the U-23 World Championships in Linz, Austria, this past summer. Having rowers that are used to working at an elite level can raise the expectations during training and competition. Last season, O’Connell won UVic’s Rower and Athlete of the Year, and he’s back for more this year.
Andrew Butler, 22, assistant captain, says, “The experience, and technique that they brought back has already populated through the program.”
Not only is the team brimming with experienced rowers, but O’Connell says that a very strong novice team is among the ranks. Rowers to watch out for include first-years Adam Donaldson, and David Nicmans. Both rookies represented Canada at the World Junior Rowing Championships in Trakai, Lithuania, this past August.
During the 2012-13 season, the Vikes outshined competitors at the Canadian University Western Championships in Burnaby, B.C. The men won five out of six events, placing them eight points ahead of runners-up the UBC Thunderbirds. Podiums shifted at the Brown Cup, however. The Brown Cup, a race inspired by the historic Oxford-Cambridge boat race, wherein two eight-person boats are pitted against each other in the meandering River Thames, saw the Vikes lose out against rivals UBC.
In the 30-year tradition of cross-border racing in early spring, another close race featured the Vikes losing out by a single stroke to the Oregon State University Beavers.
Vikes Head Coach Howard Campbell is making sure that this season his squad is the one a stroke—or several strokes—ahead on the water. Technical proficiency is Campbell’s main focus during training, which sometimes reaches up to 14 times a week.
“Rowing as a sport in the rest of the world really requires guys who are a certain size,” Butler says. “We have a good number of guys who are that size. [But] some of us are lighter, smaller. We can still really perform on the water because we are strong compared to how much we weigh. What we [also] need is to be exact in our technique.”
The Vikes are preparing for their first regatta, the Western Canadian University Championships in Burnaby, on Oct. 20. The team is ready to dominate, as this race is the qualifier towards the Canadian University Rowing Championships.
Winning the Western Championships would check off one step toward reaching their goal of winning Canadian University Championships. If they qualify, the Vikes have less than one month to prepare for the Canadian championships taking place on Nov. 2–3 in Montreal.
The National Rowing Championship follows closely on Nov. 8–10, featuring club teams, as well as university teams. To capture the swiftness of this team on the water, Vikes enthusiasts can attend the Head of the Gorge Regatta on Oct. 26, at the Gorge Waterway, and Head of the Elk on Oct. 27, at Elk Lake—the training waters of the Olympic Men’s National team.