Ridley Graduate Boat Club wins region's first gold medal at Henley
Gracie Leone, left, and Hailey Mercuri of Ridley Grad congratulate each other after winning a Henley gold in the under-17 womens double during the first day of finals at the 135th Royal Canadian Henley Regatta on Thursday in St. Catharines. JULIE JOCSAK/Postmedia News
The friendship was requited when Hailey Mercuri and Gracie Leone “made friends with the pain.”
The Ridley Graduate Boat Club members, competing in a junior men’s double, gave rowing clubs from the region their first gold medal at the 135th Royal Canadian Henley Regatta in St. Catharines.
Mercuri, 16, rowing in her second Henley; and Leone, 15, at the Canadian national club championships for the first time, managed to maintain a winning pace despite breaking away from the field of six earlier than they would have liked.
“We have a tendency to pull away as soon as possible, and we just kind of made friends with the pain and pushed ourselves,” Mercuri said.
Their victory, in the ninth of 19 finals contested Thursday afternoon at Martindale Pond; came after they qualified in a heat and a semifinal.
Mercuri and Leone, whose winning time in the 2,000-metre race was 7:27.82, learned from the earlier races the importance of not falling too far behind in the early going.
“If we can keep up with them as long as possible, we can pull away.”
Notre Dame’s Nicole Hare and Gillian Jansen set the pace for the first 1,000 metres in the final.
“Then we just started hitting it and hitting it,” Leone said. “We just pulled ahead and kept opening.”
Mercuri and Leone returned to the water for the final race of the afternoon finishing fourth to the Thompson Bat Club from Washington, D.C., in the under-17 women’s eight.
Argentina won the most medals on the first day of finals with three: senior men’s lightweight doubles, under-23 men’s lightweight single and senior women’s lightweight double.
Second in the standings, with gold medals in under-23 women’s lightweight single and under-23 women’s lightweight single; is the Leander Boat Club from Hamilton.
Calgary, Don Rowing Club, Mississauga; Ottawa, University of British Columbia, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.; and Victoria City, Victoria, B.C.; were the other crews from Canada winning gold medals.
Finals continue this afternoon, as well as Saturday afternoon with all action Sunday races for medals.
Upwards of 2,300 athletes from 140 clubs from as far as Australia, China and Zimbabwe are taking a part in a world-class regatta in which only gold medals are awarded.
All finals are life-streamed online at www.henleyregatta.ca.