Bad weather limited the National Rowing Championships in Welland, Ont. last week but didn’t stop Elk Lake rowers from hitting the podium.
Sofia Donnecke, 17, relied on her time from a qualifying heat to earn her a bronze medal in the junior (under-19) women’s singles.
“I’ll admit it was a disappointment,” said Donnecke, a Claremont Sports Institute athlete. “I was progressing as the fastest junior with a time that promised me a solid spot in the B final.”
As much as she appreciated racing against seniors and under-23 athletes, she ended up facing one too many of them in the quarterfinal, in her opinion, as she was bumped to the C/D semifinals instead of the A/B semis. Turns out it was all for naught as the regatta was disrupted by high winds and Donnecke didn’t race again after the quarter.
“I never got to race the juniors who placed silver and gold (ahead of me), but the regatta experience held several valuable lessons for me that I will take onto next season,” Donnecke said. “It is great motivation to keep training to improve because directly comparing your times to those of the London Training Centre women… It’s not something infinitely out of reach.”
Boat loads of South Island rowers made the trip, with two more junior athletes, Kelsey Farmer and Caileigh Filmer of the Victoria City Rowing Club, doubling up for gold in the junior women’s pair and bronze in the U23 pair.
VCRC’s Adam Donaldson and Jacob Barker won gold in the junior men’s pair and Nicholas Frappell won bronze in the junior men’s single. Olympian Lindsay Jennerich from Saanich won silver in the senior women’s singles.The UVic Vikes were led by Will O’Connell, who won gold in the U23 men’s pair with Ontario’s Trofym Anderson and, Alex Walker, a Vic High grad, who won gold in the lightweight men’s U23 single.
As for Donnecke, she will use the next few months to choose a university rowing program as the Claremont student has suitors from some heavy-hitting progams. She’s in Boston this week to talk with Harvard and Boston Universities, two of North America’s most famous rowing programs. She’s also well aware of what the Vikes program would bring her and has already visited Washington State University.
Donnecke still has two more years to compete as a junior before moving up to the national U23 category.
“I want to try out for U23 worlds as well as juniors because there is more funding for athletes who attend the U23 Worlds than the junior Worlds. The competition for U23 will certainly be higher though, so easier said then done. All I really need to know right now is how fast I want to get and all I need to do is train for my goals and see where that takes me.”
This past summer Donnecke was on the junior national team at the junior world championships. (Her boat coached by Victoria resident Kevin Light, who won gold in the 2008 Olympics and also coaches at Claremont.)
“(My boat) came fifth in the C-Final which is somewhere in the middle of the pack. It was really awesome to know we fit right into the pack. But, also, it gave me perspective on where I could be if I put the work in. Jr Worlds really got me motivated to start training at the next level and gave me amazing racing experience that I will take with me wherever I go.”
For now the rowing season is quiet. Athletes use the fall and winter to train with volume and build their aerobic baseline. The next competition is February’s Monster Erg at UVic, a 2,000m race on a machine against other rowers. Following that is Head of the Shawnigan Regatta.