With the Canadian University Rowing Championships in Antigonish, NS this past weekend, the fall season has drawn to a close. But not before McMaster added some stellar performances on the national stage, with top five finishes and a gold medal to end it off.
Karl Zimmermann finished off a golden year at the nationals, building on his Canadian U23 gold over the summer to end his fall season as the top university heavyweight man in the country. Zimmermann came out strong in his time trial, finishing in 8:21.42 to earn his spot as the number one boat going into finals. Trent’s Graham Peters, one of Zimmermann’s teammates on the national team, was just 1.5 seconds back going into finals, and remained in serious contention for gold.
Sunday (Nov. 1), Zimmermann set to the water again for finals, this time leaving no question in anyone’s mind that he deserved the gold. Three hundred metre into the race, Zimmermann took the lead for the first time and never lost it. At 700m, Peters started to push the field, and Zimmermann brought up his pace to match the move. By the halfway point, three boats had pulled away from the rest of the pack and Zimmermann was a boat ahead of second place. He was adding inches with every stroke giving him another half a boat by the 1,500m mark.
His competitors have had massive finishes and he knew he had to lengthen the lead before the final few hundred so they wouldn’t be able to catch up. Increasing his rate, Zimmermann pulled through the line with open water behind him. This stunning performance had Zimmermann crossing the line in 7:05.95, a personal best. This left him four seconds ahead of second place and 20 seconds ahead of other boats in the final.
Zimmermann now holds McMaster’s first national gold medal since the light women’s double took home gold in 2009.
The cross winds roared up as Ben Macphail began his race in the lightweight single. He came through in 11th in a time of 10:03.23. In finals, he fought to maintain this position, ranking 11th in the country with a time of 8:21.58.
D’Arcy Arends enjoyed a strong performance in her single during time trials, posting 8:33.24, which placed her third overall. She went medal hunting Sunday, but everyone was on their A game. Off the start, Arends held with the pack and settled into a good pace. But even one of her best-ever races wasn’t quite able to break into the top three. Making huge gains since her results the previous year, Arends pushed past UBC in the final 500m to finish fifth in 8:08.94.
And for the first time, Logan Madill and Karl Zimmermann tested the heavy men’s pair. The new combination came out strong to finish fourth in time trials, less than half a second back from UVic. Going into finals, they were ready to make a move on the podium. Off the start, the pair stuck right with Western and made their move on UBC and Victoria through the 1,000m mark.
McMaster held third place for the next 750m, with a half boat length on Victoria going into the final 250m. Here, they rode the buoys and an over-correction in steering cost them the medal, with Victoria just inching ahead. In a battle right up to the line, the men pulled across just 0.49 seconds behind. The race was executed just as they had planned and they felt great about their results despite the heartbreaking finish.
“We had a phenomenal race and everything clicked together perfectly,” Madill said.
Now the whole team will take some time off before ramping up the dry land training in preparation for the winter season of indoor races.