BY DON RICKERS
Special to the VOICE
The South Niagara Rowing Club’s Youth Men’s Four crew, which won gold at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in 2017, was named Senior Team of the Year in Welland at the city’s recent sports award banquet hosted by the Welland Sports Promotion Committee.
Neil Kennedy (Fonthill), Fraser Darling (Fenwick), Alex Jastremski (Beamsville), Graeme McKinley (Fonthill) and coxswain Kennedy Keith (Welland) defeated 85 crews and smashed the course record by 11 seconds in the men’s youth event at the Boston-based regatta, a record which had been held for almost 25 years by the US Naval Academy. The crew was coached by John Ruscitti.
The Head of the Charles (HOTC) Regatta is to rowing what the Boston Marathon is to running: a premier international competition which draws from a full spectrum of men and women, young and old athletes, and experience levels from novice to Olympic.
The three-mile course passes under six bridges on the Charles River, with crews starting at 15-second intervals in a “head race” or time-trial format. The HOTC is the largest two-day rowing regatta in the world, featuring some 11,000 athletes and 350,000-plus spectators.
SNRC’s history of rowing success is due in large part to its ongoing partnership with high schools in Niagara’s southern tier, including the perennially dominant rowing program E.L. Crossley Secondary School. Crossley has won numerous Canadian high school rowing championships in recent years, and has been the primary feeder for SNRC’s competitive youth program success. All five of the crew members in the youth men’s four are ELC students.
SNRC annually runs two of the most successful and largest regattas in Canada—the South Niagara High School Invitational in May, and the Head of the Welland Five Bridges Classic in October.