BY BRIAN RZEPPA
Since 2008, the Wyandotte Boat Club has struggled to find its footing at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, a weeklong event that has been running for the past 135 years and stands as one of the top crew championships each year.
With the help of two members of the Trenton Crew team, current junior Sarah Miles and 2016 Trenton High School graduate Alyssa Danyo, the boat club was able to claim victory for the first time in nearly a decade.
Heading into the event, Danyo had confidence that had been built over her time at Trenton as well as her experience throughout the summers, but she knew that they were in for a tough battle.
“I was nervous, as I am for any race. My expectation was that we were going to do well, but my coach made sure we weren’t too cocky before the race. He reminded us that we don’t know how well the other teams trained for this race and that we just had to row our best,” Danyo said.
Danyo, who rowed last year at Iona College in New York, noted that her preparation for this year’s Canadian Henley was especially intense given her height in comparison to her teammates.
“Preparation varied for person to person in the boat; one girl only started rowing two weeks before the race. For me, it was trying to make the weight. I was the tallest in the boat and had the most weight to lose. I had to limit my diet to fruits, vegetables and only small portions of meat and then I’d row, go for a run and workout after that.”
Danyo and her teammates’ preparation came in handy down the stretch, as Wyandotte was able to outlast their competition due in large part to the cardio that the team had collectively built over the summer.
“The other teams ‘flied and died’ at the beginning; meaning they put too much energy in the first 500 meters of the race, while we remained consistent in our speed and power. Our biggest competition in that race was St. Catharines and we were able to start pulling past them halfway through at around the 1000-meter mark. Around the 1500-meter mark, we were already ahead of them by open water.”
For Danyo, the win meant more than the Boat Club’s first Canadian Henley victory in nearly a decade.
“The win meant a lot to me,” she said. “My dad won three Canadian Henley medals and at the Wyandotte Boat Club, they have a celebration called a wall party where your picture and plaque is placed on the wall in the upstairs bar/banquet center. After a long summer of making weight, I felt my hard work paid off when I was able to join my dad on the wall.”
Bob Olszewski, the recently retired Trenton crew coach, could not have been more pleased about the news of hearing that a pair of his rowers were able to take home such a prestigious victory.
“It was awesome because the kids learn to row in Trenton and they stuck with it in the boat club and it was awesome for them and it’s something they’ll never forget. It elevates them in terms of who they are as people and in terms of how they perform as rowers,” Olszewski said.
While it was an accomplishment gained for Wyandotte, Danyo credited the Trenton program with kick starting her development and serving as the base for her abilities as a rower.
“If I didn’t join Trenton Crew, I wouldn’t be rowing. Trenton Crew made me realize my love and commitment for the sport. That team also showed me that you could start from nothing, but still have success. It made me realize that if I want to win, I had to put in the work even off the water.”
The Trenton season will not kick off until the spring, but Olszewski believes this win could have lasting effects for Miles as a leader of the team and propel the entire program into further achievements.
“Sarah (Miles) is going to be a really big role player because of the character and the praise that she has gotten as a coxswain. She was in that role with us at Nationals last year so the experience that she’s gotten this summer is priceless. When you get into tough spots you can rely on that experience and Sarah will be in a great place for herself and the team moving forward.”