The seven-member team — consisting of captain Megan Brown, Sara Squires, Amy Barry, Steph Harnum, Sarah Rowe, Jessica Johnson and spare Katie Alteen — competed in St. John’s last weekend at the Discovery Day Regatta and posted a second-place finish in their 1.225-kilometre race with a time of six minutes, 37 seconds.
With limitations in equipment available to accurately measure the race at the local Humber Valley Rowing Club, the girls hit the water almost every day for the last three weeks with a ballpark figure of eight minutes in their heads of how long it would take a new team to complete the course.
“When we crossed that line, I just looked up at the clock on the boathouse and said, ‘There is no way we just did that,’” said Brown of their Discovery Day time.
“It was a pretty cool experience for everybody,” she said. “We didn’t expect it at all.”
Brown, 28, was born in St. John’s but moved to Corner Brook at the age of seven. She was involved in rowing in her teenage years, but hadn’t been involved at all since graduating high school and moving away. She returned to the city late last summer, too late to form a team, but decided last month that she wanted to give the sport another go and began the recruiting process.
Herself, Johnson and Squires all had experience in the boat, while Rowe, Harnum, Barry and Alteen were complete newcomers to the rowing game. After about a week of getting the rookies up to speed, the drive towards excellence began.
“What is really awesome about our team is that everybody is very committed,” she said.
Each girl, said Brown, is dedicated to fitness on their own, but working together towards a goal as a team brings a whole different level of appreciation to the challenge.
“All of us are watching the progress every day,” she said. “We all want the same thing at the end — we all want to cross that finish line and do the best that we can do.”
Coxswain Jeff Griffin, himself an experienced rower from his younger years, said the 6:37 time they rowed last weekend was an exceptional result for a new team, one that blew away his expectations.
“In my mind, this was the year to get them used to rowing, and then next year worry about competing,” he admitted.
But once they raced so well with only a few weeks of preparation, he now believes the team will be ready to represent themselves well at the Royal St. John’s Regatta on Aug. 3.
Brown, who has competed in three Royal Regattas previously, including a gold-medal win a decade ago, went even further with her prediction.
That gold-medal winning team she was once on clocked in at 6:06, and that was after four years of rowing. So for this new team to do so well, so quickly — well, it puts thoughts in her head of a first-place finish for the lone Corner Brook representative at this year’s event.
“There’s obviously a curve in everyone’s progress and we’re only at the beginning of our curve,” she said. “Now all the girls have a feel for it and I feel like we can go back and kill it.
“I’m shooting for the moon and hoping to land among the stars.”