Vivien Leutz couldn’t imagine going a year without rowing.
It was a key factor helping the the foreign exchange student from Frankfurt, Germany, choose Claremont secondary over other schools.
But as strong as Claremont secondary’s rowing program reputation has become, she had no idea there was a rowing academy. Or that it is led by world champion Kevin Light for a coach.
“I thought there was a small rowing team which has practice sometimes after school,” Leutz said.
She soon learned about the rowing academy and changed all of her courses to make it work.
“(Students) told me Kevin was our coach, an Olympic gold medalist. I couldn’t believe it. I was very excited to meet him.”
Leutz crews a senior women’s double with locally produced Sofia Donnecke, who started rowing at Royal Oak middle school. They are two of the premier rowing athletes at the school. They’ve gone head to head in the singles, finishing first and second at the Maple Bay regatta recently, and dominated in the double, winning it at the Shawnigan and Maple Bay regattas this season.
“We have not had many races yet,” Light said. “But they are both very competitive with each other in the single sculls and match up really well in the double (scull, two oars each) or pair (sweep, one oar each).”
Clearly Leutz is no slouch. A surprise for the Claremont academy, Leutz has competed at the German youth championships. So it goes for Donnecke, who raced to second in the Western Canada junior women’s (under-19) trials in Burnaby on Saturday.
It’s put Donnecke on the national radar.
And now Leutz and Donnecke, both in Grade 11, are hoping to peak this season at the Canadian Rowing High School Championships held in St. Catherines in June.
“I can’t wait for St. Catherines,” Leutz said.
Leutz can sometimes be shy about her grasp of the English language and her rowing abilities which made partnering with Donnecke all the better.
“Actually it’s no big deal because I’m (originally) from Germany and speak German, and (Leutz) can already speak English well,” Donnecke said.
“Leutz is really good at rowing. In Germany they train mostly in the singles, so she has great technique. She tries hard and she’s a great person to train with.”
The type of attitude Leutz has brought to the academy’s daily rowing training is more like that of a university or national team athlete, Light said.
“Leutz prefers actually rowing on the water than training on the ERG (rowing machine), as is the case with most rowers,” Light said. “But her attitude and determination has allowed her to overcome some of the fears about the rowing machine she brought with her from Germany.”
This weekend (April 26 to 28) is a major event, the Brentwood Bay regatta, attended by U.S. schools.