Vikes rower Rebecca Zimmerman gets some advice from coach Rick Crawley during the Monster ERG indoor competition Sunday at the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Gym.

Vikes rower Rebecca Zimmerman gets some advice from coach Rick Crawley during the Monster ERG indoor competition Sunday at the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Gym.

UVic Vikes stroke into next stage of season

Monster ERG competition a prelude to the return of outdoor rowing

If you’re driving Highway 17 through Saanich this week, don’t be surprised to see the familiar rowers’ longboats churning through the chilly waters of Elk Lake.

Fresh off the 29th annual Monster ERG indoor rowing competition at the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Gym on Sunday, Vikes rowers hit the water this week to begin training for the 2014 spring season.

Vikes women’s team head coach Rick Crawley, who has been guiding the men’s side as well of late and helping in the selection process for that position, says the indoor event marks the culmination of the winter training period.

“We use it in a lot of instances to help with our (varsity team) selection,” he said. “It’s not the be-all, end-all. For some kids, I might select them to the boat based on what they do here. For others it decides a pecking order.”

The Vikes men are a relatively young squad, Crawley said, but should be competitive this spring. They are led by a trio of under-23 national team members: Esquimalt alumnus Will O’Connell (fifth year), Vic High grad Alex Walker (second year) and Queen’s University transfer Jacob Koudys.

The women’s side is younger – just four athletes are in their third year or higher – but Crawley likes their approach and attitude.

“They’re really fun to coach,” he said. “This group is really gung ho (and) there’s huge talent in them.”

Including captain and second-year Vike Rebecca Zimmerman, the women’s heavyweight boats will be boosted by the presence of such members as six-foot-three Jillian Legare (third year), six-three rookie Courtney Smith and six-one second-year athlete Elizabeth McConnell.

“(In the lightgweight boats) we’re looking more for athleticism and drive,” Crawley said. “We’ve got a couple of kids with big futures ahead of them.”

The teams dip their competitive oars in the water on the weekend of Feb. 15 and 16, when they’ll contest the Hungerford Regatta and the Head of the Shawnigan on Shawnigan Lake. Follow their progress at vikes.uvic.ca.

ddescoteau@vicnews.com