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Veteran rowers claim elusive women's title at Royal St. John's Regatta

Members of the Hyflodraulic crew celebrate their win in the women's championship race at the 2019 Royal St. John's Regatta Wednesday evening at Quidi Vidi Lake. Hyflodraulic finished the race in 5:02.23, four seconds ahead of runner-up The Cahill Group. No. 3 oar Teresa Butler snapped an oar just as the team crossed the finish line, and held it up for all to see. — Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Members of the Hyflodraulic crew celebrate their win in the women's championship race at the 2019 Royal St. John's Regatta Wednesday evening at Quidi Vidi Lake. Hyflodraulic finished the race in 5:02.23, four seconds ahead of runner-up The Cahill Group. No. 3 oar Teresa Butler snapped an oar just as the team crossed the finish line, and held it up for all to see. — Joe Gibbons/The Telegram - Joe Gibbons

Hyflodraulic finishes the day with a 5:02.23 championship race time at Quidi Vidi

It worked for Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors this season, and this "load management" thing paid off for the Hyflodraulic women’s rowing team, which won the Royal St. John’s Regatta women’s championship on a glorious Wednesday evening at Quidi Vidi Lake.

“Yes,” grinned Craig Whittle, who pulled off the rare double-double on Regatta Day, steering both the men’s and women’s championship teams to victory, “they were calling themselves Kawhi all year.

“We did a lot of load management, for sure.”

See, the Hyflodraulic team consists of some women who are — shall we say — considered seasoned rowers to most crews down "on the pond," prompting Whittle to alter his training program at the start of the year.

Hence the “load management” chuckle, alluding to the buzzword Leonard made famous. Basically, it was a fancy term for giving the NBA star a break every now and again. The Raptors said it was about minimizing injury risk, and optimizing Leonard’s effectiveness over the long term.

“I’ve rowed 20 years. I’ve been in the championship race 12 times. I’ve finished second, third, fourth and fifth. I’m 44, I have a child, and so it’s a big deal to compete against younger rowers at my age. To finally get across that finish line first, the feeling had nothing to do with relief. It was just an amazing feeling of joy, of victory. We all cried. It felt overwhelming to win.”

Hyflodraulic stroke oar Catherine Kelly

“Where we are a little older,” said Whittle, choosing his words wisely, “I didn’t do as much ergometer (rowing machine) work as I would with a younger team. And we didn’t erg consecutive days.

“Where I’m older myself, and where we tried to come back last year, I knew how long it took me to recover (from an erg workout).

“We had to train a little bit smarter.”

The Hyflodraulic group, which included stroke Catherine Kelly, Tracy Roche, Wendi Young, Teresa Butler, Amanda Butland and Jennie Wadden, along with spare Nancy Beaton, won the women’s title at the 201st Regatta in a time of 5:02.23, beating The Cahill Group by four seconds.

Steers Insurance was third in 5:21.78, followed by Dawe and Burke (5:24.31) and Kennedy’s Cleaning Services (5:33.03).

Hyflodraulic was stroked by 44-year-old Kelly. Roche is 42, and Butler is 32.

Roche is the former Tracy Hussey, silver medalist in the 5,000-metre race walk at the 1997 Canada Summer Games in Brandon, Man. Butler is a former Memorial Sea-Hawks varsity basketball player, Young is a competitive bodybuilder and Wadden played collegiate hockey in the United States.

This team, in other words, is athletic.

“I’m actually the slouch of the group,” Kelly smiled.

For Kelly, Butler, Butland and Wadden, it was their first championship, and it meant a lot to Kelly, who quickly became emotional as Hyflodraulic emerged from their Miss Tubular racing shell at the Winner’s Dock.

“I’ve rowed 20 years,” she said, “and this is my first win.

“I’ve been in the championship race 12 times. I’ve finished second, third, fourth and fifth.

“I’m 44, I have a child, and so it’s a big deal to compete against younger rowers at my age.

“To finally get across that finish line first, the feeling had nothing to do with relief. It was just an amazing feeling of joy, of victory. We all cried. It felt overwhelming to win.”

The Hyflodraulic group has been rowing together off and on for a number of years, under different sponsors. Last year, Kelly, Roche, Young, Butler and Butland all rowed together under the Smith Stockley banner, which finished second to m5 in the championship race.

“Tracy is good friends with my wife (runner Krissy Dooling),” Whittle said. “She came to me two years ago and asked if I’d do a (training) program for them. Paul Ring was steering them at the time.

“At first, I was like, ‘Do I want to get involved?’ And then it was like, sure, as friends. They started doing some erg programs, and I helped out with some coaching last year.

“Then they asked me if I’d stay on board coaching this year and I said, ‘Sure.’”

Ring and Tina Hunt took a step back from last year’s Stockley team, and Wadden, after giving birth to twins, was back in the boat joining Kelly, Roche, Young, Butler and Butland.

“I didn’t decide to commit to coxing until Christmas,” Whittle said, “because I was asking myself, ‘Do I want to row again?’”

A championship oarsman, Whittle rowed for the Fine Strokes men’s crew in 2018.

“Anyhow, nothing came about, so I committed to the girls.”

“I think it was in October, and I said to Teresa when we were out for a run, ‘This would be my Dream Team,’” said Roche, who last won in 2008. “This team we have here now. Yep, this could be a Dream Team.

“And here we are.”

In the first race of the day Wednesday, the Atlantic Lottery Female Amateur race, Hyflodraulic was first in 5:04.04.

Earlier in the season, the team set a new course record at the Placentia Regatta, with a 4:54.87 showing. Hyflodraulic won the championship later in the day.

Then, at the 157th running of the regatta in Harbour Grace, Hyflodraulic set a female course record of five minutes and 15.34 seconds in the morning. However, on a breezy Lady Lake in the evening, The Cahill Group beat Hyflodraulic in the championship race.

“That,” Roche smiled, “in and of itself is a record.”

“When I finally stepped on board,” Whittle said, “I said, ‘You know what, I don’t really know how fast we can go. But I think if we can break 5:10 or 5:08, it will be a really great year. That will be enough to get us to the finish line.’

“They exceeded my expectations, for sure.”

Roche said the "R" word — OK, record, as in course record — was never discussed amongst the rowers this year, not the Placentia or Harbour Grace standards, and certainly not the Royal St. John’s Regatta course record of 4:56.10, set by the great m5 team last summer.

“That has not been on our radar,” Roche said. “A couple of us are a little older, we have kids. We weren’t really expecting what happened today. Certainly, we’re really happy to row this fast.”

“It just came together this year,” Kelly said. “A lot of us have rowed for a long time, and we, as a crew, have rowed together on and off. And this year, with Craig Whittle at the helm, it all came together.

“Sometimes in sports, you know that happens.”

As Hyflodraulic, crossed the finish line, No. 3 oar Butler, the former Sea-Hawks hoops player, snapped her oar.

Dodging a near catastrophe, Hyflodraulic emerged victorious, and proved to everyone at pondside Wednesday these veteran rowers aren’t done yet.

robin.short@thetelegram.com


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