Indoor rowing held the spotlight at McMaster on Saturday (March 22) when the Marauders staged their annual McMaster 2×4 Challenge. This unique 8,000m, four-man relay race is by far the most exciting event of the indoor rowing season, and is anticipated by athletes across the province as the final race of the winter season.
The race began in 2004 as a battle between the McMaster and Trent rowing teams and was only a 2,000m distance. But in 2008, the event was moved to the more centralized Hamilton location, the distance was increased to 8,000m and over the following four years, the race functioned mainly as a duel between the Excalibur, Mustangs and Marauders, with occasional appearances from other schools. This new distance made the event even more grueling, and the victories even more rewarding.
The challenge was later expanded to include a single open high school event to accommodate up-and-coming local athletes.
This year, the categories were opened even further to include a full complement of high school divisions, along with open and mixed club categories. These added events, along with a strong outreach campaign, meant that registration more than doubled from previous years, to 196 participating athletes on 49 teams. Five high schools, six universities, two clubs and a Crossfit gym competed for homemade 2×4 trophies across the 23 events, and for the overall three-foot, 2×4 trophy.
The first erg race started at 9 a.m., with the high school junior women and lightweight women with Westdale taking both titles. In the high school junior men and lightweight men, Grimsby won both divisions over rivals Westdale and St Mary.
The senior high school open category went to St Mary over Westdale (second), Ancaster (third) and Bishop Tonnos (fourth), while Ancaster overtook St Mary in the lightweight event.
For the lightweights open class, St Mary took an early lead on Westdale and Bishop Tonnos to finish first. The Westdale heavyweights threw down a solid early lead and used the crowd’s energy to pull away from St. Mary, Ancaster, and Westdale (B) for the entire 25-minute race.
In the university novice women division, Guelph edged out the Marauders. Mac finished third in the junior varsity class behind two Western crews. The women’s open event was taken by Hamilton’s Leander Boat Club.
In the novice men’s university division side, the Mac team led the race for 7,500m, but Guelph made an impressive sprint to take the victory on the line. In the junior varsity category, Western swiped a win over Brock, while the Barrie Rowing Club took the victory in the mixed club event.
McMaster fell short to the Mustangs to finish second in the varsity lightweight women and in the lightweight men’s category (Mac didn’t enter), Western came out on top, followed by Brock, Trent and the University of Toronto teams.
Western edged out the University of Toronto, McMaster, Brock and Guelph, with less than a minute between teams in the varsity women’s heavyweights.
The men’s varsity heavyweight event saw Leander, with two McMaster alumni, run a very impressive race to beat out the Crossfit and Leander B teams. In the University race, Western took an early lead, and built on that throughout the race. McMaster beat the University of Toronto to finish second in the event.
At the end of the day, the Western Mustangs repeated history with impressive victories in many categories to take the overall banner. But the other five universities have shown that in coming years, Western will have stiff competition to contend with.