All of their practice time paid off for Chilliwack's Erin Steele (front) and Maple Ridge's Karen Chung (behind), who teamed up for an excellent performance at last weekend's Canadian University Rowing Championships. BORO KASIC PHOTO

Chilliwack paddlers power UFV rowing into national finals

Mitchell Wierks and Erin Steele were part of the UFV mens' and womens' boats qualifying for B finals.

Chilliwack natives helped the University of the Fraser Valley qualify for two B finals at last weekend’s Canadian University Rowing Championships.

The regatta was hosted at Burnaby Lake by the University of British Columbia, drawing 277 athletes from 18 universities – from Victoria in the west to St. Francis Xavier (Antigonish, N.S.) in the east, and many points in between.

In the men’s pair, the Cascades duo of Mitchell Wierks (Chilliwack) and Stephen Wall (Coquitlam) finished fourth in the B final in the time of 7:44.18. The UFV women’s pair of Erin Steele (Chilliwack) and Karen Chung (Maple Ridge) were sixth in their B final, clocking in at 8:49.47.

Cascades head coach Liz Chisholm noted that the Wall-Wierks duo had the potential to qualify for the A final, but Wall has been battling a shoulder injury throughout the fall which impacted his fitness level and flared up on the day of the time trials.

“He gave it a Hurculean effort,” Chisholm said. “They were neck-and-neck with the team that came in second (a Calgary Dinos entry) until the last 700 metres of the B final. Finals race day had a pretty significant cross-wind which made everyone’s times slower than the day before.”

Steele and Chung also battled the wind, which was pushing them off their line and made steering a struggle.

“It was the first time they’ve been at CU’s, both of them,” Chisholm said, noting that the ultra-athletic Steele has only been rowing since January. “The learning curve sometimes happens within a weekend, which it did to a certain extent. I think it bodes well for next year, with these athletes coming in with more experience and time spent in some adverse conditions.”

The Cascades also sent rowers to the Head of the Lake regatta in Seattle on the weekend, but the races were cancelled partway through the morning due to stormy weather.