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Saanich high schoolers stroke to emotional gold medal at rowing nationals

St. Michaels University School eights win honours memory of Emily Selwood
The St. Michaels University School junior women’s coxed eights crew (in red) out in front in the final at the Canadian Secondary School Rowing Association national regatta in St. Catharines, Ont. (Courtesy Richard Curry/SMUS)

Rowers from St. Michaels University School stroked their hearts out at the recent Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association championships in St. Catherines, Ont., but one race in particular held a special meaning for the team.

Competing in a brand-new eights boat delivered just in time for the nationals – and painted with the name of a fallen former teammate, Emily Selwood – the novice girls crew raced to gold in the 2,000-metre final on June 5. The team dug deep and finished nearly five seconds ahead of a highly rated Branksome Hall crew from Toronto.

An emotional head of SMUS rowing Susanne Walker Curry remarked after the race that they were “bringing Emily home.”

SMUS claimed four gold and five silver at the regatta and qualified for finals in all 11 events entered, an overall performance Walker Curry later called “monumental,” for reasons that included the honouring of Selwood.

The 18-year-old was tragically killed in September 2021 along with a fellow student when they were struck by a vehicle on the UBC campus in Vancouver.

“Her passing really hit us quite hard, because of her connections as a family member at our school, and as a former teammate,” Walker Curry said. “She was a ‘lifer’ in our rowing program and had never rowed before Grade 9.”

Selwood won two silver as a Grade 10 in 2019 in under-17 women’s eights and coxed fours, but with the pandemic cancelling nationals in 2020 and 2021, she and others never got a chance to return.

“This was monumental that we were going back to normal,” Walker Curry said. “But we were also returning with a little extra purpose, carrying athletes on our shoulders who didn’t get a chance to compete (in their senior years).”

The new eights boat, delivered days before the regatta from London, Ont., memorialized Selwood with her name on the side and on her bow seat.

Crewing it to gold were cox Samantha Yee and rowers Marlene Dietrich, Julie Schoch, Claire Lawler, Jenna Melo, Hannah Schmitt, Ava Tan, Sophia Vitrouk and Rowan Williams.

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Other gold medallists from SMUS included the men’s novice eights with cox Sydney Sugar and rowers Spencer Peters, Finley Rolfe, William Song, Tiger Zhang, Diego D’Lorm, Xander Lelewski, Malik Salamatian and Ryan So; the men’s lightweight novice coxed fours, with cox Jaieme Aubertin and rowers Salamatian, So, Samuel Tang and Oliver Pressello, and the mixed coxless four of Emma Curry, Lily Langtry, Owen Vincent and Markus Muller, who edged the Claremont secondary boat by about a second.

Silver medal crews included the women’s lightweight (63kg) novice coxed four (cox Caroline Tam, Kate LeRoy, Lawler, Schmitt and Sophie Bosenberg); men’s junior coxed four (cox Aubertin, Zhang, Rolfe, Peters and Song); women’s novice coxed four (cox Tam, Melo, Tan, Vitrouk and Williams); women’s junior coxed four (cox Jaclyn Chow, Pippa Hlannon, Schoch, Dietrich and Rowan Denis), and women’s junior lightweight (59kg) coxed four (cox Chow, Hlannon, Denis, Maya Achuthan and Bosenberg).

Claremont rowers also collected multiple medals at the regatta, including gold in women’s senior lightweight (63kg) pairs (Tegan Zecher, Katerina Chow); senior men’s fours (Gerrit Schaefer, Fabio Geisler, Quinn McCoy, Terence Conor Dillon), and women’s junior coxed fours (cox Callum Dutchak, Tiegan Szulc, Stella Graham, Sophie Schlatter, Zecher)

The silver medal mixed coxless four crew included Dillon, Schlatter, Julia Ottenbreit and Jonathan Turner, while bronze medals went to Schafer and Geisler in senior men’s pairs, Carla Steckham and Evelyn Lewis in senior women’s pairs and McCoy in junior men’s individual.

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