St. Andrew’s Regional High’s Rayna Stuart

Independent Victoria school’s rowers reach new heights

St. Andrew's Regional High medal count a byproduct of switch to academy system for rowing

High winds played havoc with the Canadian high school rowing championships on the Royal Henley course in St. Catharines, Ont.

St. Andrew’s Regional High coach Alia Zawacki sensed the weather might alter the results and had some tactical advice for her crew in the preliminary races.

“I told them for the heats, ‘you better race like it’s the finals,’” she said, after the 14-member team returned home last week with its best-ever medal haul from the national event.

With officials cancelling the finals scheduled for June 2, times from the heats were used to determine medallists. That left the Saanich independent school with three gold, one silver and a bronze.

Rayna Stuart and Cecilia Fillipone won two gold each, taking junior girls doubles by a whopping four seconds over the second-place finisher and teaming with Jocelyn Mihalynuk and Drew van Bourgondien to capture gold in junior girls fours by a similar margin.

Teammate Patrick Keane won junior boys singles gold by about four seconds and lost gold by just .01 of a second in senior boys lightweight singles to earn the silver.

The St. Andrew’s junior girls lightweight coxed four crew of Mihalynuk, Emma Alvernaz, Emily McCart, Grace Neeson and Ania Zapotoczny earned bronze medal.

Crosstown rival St. Michaels University School captured the gold in that event, with Anika Johnson, Desi McIntosh, Olivia Donald, Dayna Fitzgerald and Acacia Welsford in the boat.

“It’s quite exciting to have nine out of the 14 bring home medals,” said Zawacki, who started a rowing academy at her school in 2011.

St. Andrew’s had previously won two gold in its history, including one by future Olympian Dave Calder back in the mid ’90s.

Switching to an academy format has meant student-athletes incorporate their training into their daily schedule, Zawacki said, as opposed to training after school only.

SMUS rowers added two bronze at nationals, in junior girls coxed four (Johnson, Donald, Fitzgerald, Welsford and Sage Friswell) and junior boys quad  (Matt Bouchard, Triton Lelewski, Colin Knightley and Harrison Xu).

sports@vicnews.com

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