The weeklong 2019 Canoe Kayak Canada Sprint National Champions were held in Regina from August 27-31. The Yukon was represented by two paddlers, Julianne Girouard, who medalled twice at the Western Canada Summer Games, and Rogan Parry.
The two paddlers, both athletes at Flatwater North, were not competing under their club’s banner. Girouard competed under the False Creek Sprint Canoe Club banner. The club is based in Vancouver. Parry was competing with the Pemberton Canoe Association.
At Nationals, Girouard paddled in four events. Her most successful races were the U16 K-2 500 metres and the U16 K-4 500m. Girouard’s teams placed fifth in both events.
In the K-2, Girouard’s teammate was False Creek kayaker Brin Nyvall. The duo had competed in Kamloops together to qualify for Nationals but had not had much time to practise.
Flatwater North coach, Lynwen Birch, who accompanied the Yukoners to Regina, said it was quite the feat for the pair to place where they did.
“They have only paddled together one time before and then had four days to practise before the races,” said Birch. “ Brin doesn’t train team boats. Their propensity for blending and adapting most would say, to come together, is an achievement in itself.”
Birch said the pair had a strong heat which set the bar for the final. The K-2 race started with 27 crews and was whittled down to nine for the championship paddle.
Their final time was 2:00.976, a time Girouard was pleased with.
“I was very happy,” said Girouard. “We crossed the finish line and I said to Brin we got fifth. We didn’t expect it but we knew we could accomplish it. Top five was the goal.”
Having shared success with Nyvall, Girouard said she would like to partner with her again.
“We work well together,” said Girouard. “I have more power, not that she isn’t powerful, and she tends to have a higher stroke rate. I follow her and add power. We complement each other.”
Birch said that Nyvall set the pace and with Girouard’s power they were the only boat, that she saw, accelerating through the last 75 metres.
“They need to shore up the middle,” said Birch.
Before Nationals, Birch stressed to the Yukon athletes the importance of having inter-provincial friendships.
The foundation that Girouard and Nyvall built, Birch said was inspiring.
“They put themselves in the mix with work ethic and commitment,” said Birch. “They used learning to progress and were smart about training.”
The positive energy fed into the K-4 event, where Girouard and Nyvall joined Keisa Belier and Gillian Helliwell.
“When you get a good result in a smaller boat that creates a fire and the whole team caught that energy,” said Birch.
The quartet placed fifth with a time of 2:00.396. Girouard hopes to team up with them again.
“They were really nice and we all had some experience with each other,” said Girouard. “It was exciting and we all worked well together.”
For the first time in over three decades, the Pacific division entered a 15-person war canoe. Girouard got the opportunity to be a part of the team.
“It was so much fun, I love the war canoe,” said Girouard. “The feeling of the boat … it goes so fast.”
For Girouard, 15, it was her first Nationals. She left feeling motivated to be better for next year.
“In my head I know next year I will be stronger, older, and know I can beat the other girls,” she said. “I hope to qualify for K-1 events and in the offseason, I will look to build my cardio and strength.”
Parry competed two events at Nationals. He was invited to join the Pemberton Canoe Association after one of their paddlers dropped out.
“When I was told I had the chance to go I was very excited,” said Parry.
Both Birch and Parry said going into the races expectations were minimal but that didn’t stop Parry from gaining some valuable experience.
Parry partnered with Austin Burt for the U16 K-2 1000 metre race. The pair raced to a time of 4:49.869. Parry, 14, and Burt, 13, were racing up two age levels with little experience in the boat together.
“It was my first time meeting him when we got into the boat together,” said Parry. “It was a good experience and it showed me what level people are at.”
Parry’s best result came in the U16 K-4 500 metres. He and Burt joined fellow Pemberton paddlers Landon Drain and Kieran Nott. The quartet completed the race in 1:46.060, fifth in their heat.
Parry said it was the fastest he has gone in a K-4 race of that distance.
“The K-4 was shorter but better,” said Parry. “I beat my normal times by 16 seconds.”
He said he was grateful for the chance to race up an age level.
“I think it will help that I competed at U16,” said Parry. “I was so happy for the opportunity. It teaches me the expectations of for the athletes.
“It was a little intimidating at first but then you realize everyone is there doing something we all love.”
Birch said Parry began putting the summer’s training into practice at Nationals.
“He is maturing as a racer,” said Birch. “I was glad to see Rogan get his head together and focus and be in racing mode. The whole point was to get exposure to the high-performance races.
“So much growth and development will happen in the next few years.”
Next year, Parry has his sights set on Nationals again but said he would like to qualify, not just be invited.
Birch said she encouraged both Girouard and Parry to embrace the entire atmosphere of Nationals.
“It was insane,” said Parry. “We got to watch Olympians and future Olympians and see the newest boats. There were about 500 paddlers and some of the times were insane.”
“It was my first Nationals so it was cool to see the National team race,” said Girouard.
“I got to see how other people do things and watch stronger, faster paddlers. There was a lot of good paddlers and good energy everywhere.”
Canada currently ranks second on the international list for Junior results worldwide. Girouard and Parry were against some of those athletes. Birch said Nationals will help her paint a picture for the athletes.
“The scope is larger than just paddling in Canada,” said Birch. “It sets the athletes on the same stage as international athletes. If they work hard they can reach that standard.”