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Second Western Canadian Gold for Novice Women's Crew

A photo finish meant a few tense moments for both racers and spectators, but the nail biting was rewarded with a second consecutive novice women's 8 gold medal at the Western Canadian University rowing championships (WCURC) in Burnaby, B.C.

"The finish was so close that no one except the officials were really certain who had won the race and there were some agonizing moments before the official announcement was made," says head coach Peter Walsh.

"With a whole new crew of novices fresh from winning Lakeland's fourth provincial university title in Calgary October 5, our hopes were high," he adds.

Members of the novice crew are Keara Nelson, Rachelle Simard, Kimi Balsillie, Amanda Farnsworth, Jennifer Richards, Chloe Hoiland, Rachel DesCộtes, Heather Stanko and coxie Siria Vansevenandt.

Starting in lane three, the crew had good view of the entire field of crews with UVic and UBC right beside them. "The start was clean and very quickly these three boats surged out ahead of the other three boats in this six boat final," says Walsh.

By mid race UBC had a slight lead over Lakeland and UVic was slightly back of both of them and these positions changed very little as they came into the last 150 m. In what was easily the most exciting race of the day and certainly the closest finish Lakeland College edged out UBC right at the line beating them by 0.3 seconds with UVic finishing third just two seconds behind UBC.

Lakeland's gold medal was the one of four that didn't go to UBC, and the only one that didn't stay in British Columbia. UVic had the other three golds. See the full WCURC results.

This race was the final one of four featuring the Rustler Crew of 12 women. "Under almost perfect rowing conditions Lakeland was entered into four events and each of the crews showed that a small school rowing program can be competitive at all levels," says Walsh.

The first crew to race was the women’s pair and the Birchfield sisters, Emily and Sarah, rowed a very good race to finish third in their heat behind UVic and UBC and qualify for the event final. "We decided later to scratch this crew from the pairs final in an effort to save their strength for the women’s junior varsity four race," says Walsh

The next event for Lakeland College was the varsity women’s four which featured some very experienced crews from the bigger schools. Lakeland's crew of Benson, Stanko, Birchfield and Birchfield finished tied for fourth in this six boat race but they were dropped to fifth after review of the photo finish.

This same crew was up next in the junior varsity women’s four were they expected to be significantly more competitive. This in fact proved to be the case as they finished a very strong third behind UVic and UBC in the five boat final. "Three of these girls were in last year’s gold medal novice crew and they showed what this school is capable of with some experience in the boat," says Walsh, "As they rowed a very strong, clean race chasing down eight of the strongest female university rowers in western Canada."

"Needless to say there was joy in Rustler Crew that evening as they made the long journey home through the mountains.

"Lakeland College rowing team would again like to acknowledge how grateful they are for the support they receive from the college and for making travel to this competition possible. Rustler Crew will be gracious in defeat and humble in victory but we will take no prisoners."

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