They definitely proved themselves to be champions. They might even have it within themselves to be counted among the best of all times.
The question is whether they'll have the chance to find out.
East Coast Maintenance, which might be described as a hybrid crew - three oarsmen and the coxswain from the record-setting Crosbie Industrial team of 2007, plus three rowers who had success as sliding-seaters - won the Royal St. John's Regatta men's championship in going-away fashion Wednesday, making their way up and down Quidi Vidi Lake in nine minutes and 9.72 seconds.
That was more than two dozen seconds faster that second-place Browne's Auto Supplies and capped a season which saw East Coast Maintenance handily win all four of its races at Quidi Vidi.
It also provided coxswain Mark Hayward, stroke Brent Hickey, Ronnie Whitten, James Cadigan and coach Bert Hickey with their third championship in four years. All had been members of the Crosbie crew that won titles in 2006 and 2007, the latter in a course record of 8:51.32. For Luke Hayes, Matthew Manning and Jeremy Kavanagh, it was their first Regatta men's championship.
Their fastest time Wednesday was the 9:05.27 they rowed in the morn ing as they won the men's amateur, but they'll tell you their best race came in the evening in conditions far less favourable than earlier in the day.
Winds picked up
Wednesday was warm, while expected showers stayed away, creating conditions that attracted a steady and substantial crowd to the pond throughout the day.
But by suppertime, winds had picked up, creating a bit of a lop on the water.
What's more they blew in the face of rowers on the return leg of the championship races.
"There's always doubts with new crews or new-look crews, but we almost scared ourselves with our capabilities. That's not a great pond," said Cadigan, with a post-race nod toward the water, " but that's a very good time.
"So there's no saying what we can or can't do."
But past record and promise is not enough. Whitten knows.
In Crosbie's record-busting year, the crew began a hard regimen training before the start of winter and never let up until mid-summer and their big win.
It's not that the East Coast Maintenance crew doesn't have the will to duplicate that effort , but maybe not the way.
The majority of the team are young men just starting their lives and work and/or education will take precedent.
"I'd love to be able to do that the program they did in 2007, but that's if I'm here ... and there's always that 'if'" said Manning, who will graduate with a mechanical engineering degree from MUN next spring.
Cadigan is graduating from the RNC training program and is awaiting his posting, and both he and Kavanagh are committed to playing provincial senior hockey in the winter.
Training is key
"The capability (to challenge for a record)? I believe we do have it," said Whitten.
"But while I can see this team getting back together, I don't know if we can put in the eight or nine months of training that is necessary.
"But It would be nice to find out.
" I know one of our goals was to row nine minutes this year and while that didn't happen, I think that could have been a nine-minute row (in the championship race) ... a little bit under, maybe an little bit over maybe, but somewhere around it. It just wasn't a nine-minute pond."
First-time champions Kavanagh, Manning and Hayes were a little more inclined to contemplate the successes of their recent past as opposed to predicting the future, but Wednesday's happening had them open to all possibilities.
Grows on you
"It grows on you. It's addicting. It's like a drug making you want to get better, to get faster," said Kavanagh. "It makes you glad to stick around."
Hayes seconds the emotion.
"I'd go back out there right now and do it again ... in a heartbeat," he said.
Not that all rowers understand. Hayes says many in other provinces he's encountered at sliding-seat competitions can't get wrap their minds around the fixed-seat, Quidi Vidi fascination.
"They think it's absurd how we go down and to a turn - they just go straight - or how we row these heavy boats," said Hayes. "But they don't know the Regatta is more than just about the rowing. All I know is that I'd give up my whole summer for the next five years for a championship."
Browne's Auto Supplies, comprised of rowers who will compete in the Canada Games in P.E.I. later this month, finished the championship race in 9:34. 35 after a promising start - they actually led in the early going.
Lambs Rum (9:38.64) was third, followed by 2007 champion O'Dea Earle (9:48.47) and Canadian Forces Men (10:32.17).