It didn’t seem possible for Max Athletics and Roebothan McKay and Marshall to have a closer championship race than last year’s, but that’s exactly what the two great crews produced at the 196th Royal St. John’s Regatta Wednesday evening on Quidi Vidi Lake.
And the final result was exactly the same.
The Max Women, which won the 2013 title by a little over a second over RMM, defended their crown Wednesday, beating their friendly rivals again, this time by .68 seconds.
Max, rowing in Miss Tubular with coxswain Haley Ivany and stroke Emily Hancock, Stephanie Graham, Megan Fitzgerald, Kirsten McKay, Morgan Walsh, Emily Peacock, Anna Henley and Maria Roach, posted a winning time of 5:11:83
Roebothan McKay and Marshall stopped the clock at 5:12.51. Ellsworth Estates placed third in 5:21:13 followed by NEAL in 5:24:12 and India Gate in 5:33:20.
The race, which had a false start, eventually began under overcast skies with a slight mist, and it was nip and tuck all the way.
Hancock said the false start didn’t bother the crew.
“We felt we could do better actually. When the adrenaline kicks in that sort of thing doesn’t bother you,” she said.
The 21-year-old from Halifax, who rowed with Max No. 2 crew last year, said she couldn’t imagine a closer race.
“We’ve been battling them (RMM) all year and it’s about consistency and trusting everyone you are rowing with.”
Hancock, whose crew finished fourth last year, said winning feels a lot better.
A third-year Memorial University student, Hancock rowed with the same girls in last year’s Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que.
Like her teammate, Ivany said the restart was no big deal.
“It was a good practice start,” Ivany said with a laugh when asked about the false start in the final.
It was the end of the race that was more traumatic. Ivany said she had no idea who was going to win coming home.
“It was a crazy final stretch,” she said. “At no time did I feel we had it for sure. It was neck and neck all the way. It was only when the gun when off that we knew we had it.”
RMM may have felt this would be the year to knock off Max after they won the first female race of the day by three seconds over their rivals.
Ivany said the loss in the morning race connected with everyone in the boat.
“We knew we had to put it in gear because we only had one more chance.”
Max No. 4 oar Megan Fitzgerald said losing to RMM earlier in the day was incentive in terms of knowing what needed to be done.
“We made some adjustments and it worked out perfectly,” she said.
Fitzgerald said both crews are just about even and it’s been that way over the past few years in all of their regattas.
Max won this year’s Placentia Regatta, while RMM came back with a championship win in the Harbour Grace Regatta final a week later.
“They may be a little older and have more experience than us, but it comes down to the race,” although Fitzgerald admitted.
“If we raced tomorrow , it might be a different result.”
RMM’s stroke Amanda Ryan made no apologies for the loss.
“All you can do is row your hardest and we did,” she said.
“That was a heartbreaker for sure,” Ryan admitted as her crew gathered together following the awards presentation.
“It was such a good race, though and you can’t take anything away from them (Max),” said Ryan.
“We were confident going in. I thought we had a good chance and we did,” said Ryan before adding with a laugh.
“We’ll get them one year.”
When the race was over and the winning crew was finished with interviews at the dock, they got out of the boat and went directly to Henley, standing nearby.
Henley, who was given a cheerful group hug by her crewmates, was unable to race with her crew due to a rib injury she picked up earlier in the summer.
“I almost threw up before the race I was so nervous,” said Henley with a laugh.
“I was a bit of a wreck, but I was super proud of them.”