Another strong fall season for Laurentian Voyageur rowing sensation Hayley Chase has given way to a 2020 calendar year filled with various options for the 22-year-old native of Alma, Ontario.
A four year veteran of the L.U. rowing team, Chase was recognized as the Female Athlete of the Year at the Canadian University Rowing Championships, after claiming gold at provincials and bronze at nationals in October/November.
"I tried to improve every time I went out, so I was happy that I was able to constantly improve and continue to have a good season," said Chase, taking in some tournament ringette action at the Countryside Sports Complex before Christmas.
Turns out this talented athlete not only suited up with a Regional ringette team back in the day but more recently, played with the Laurentian University entry that competed at the University Challenge Cup.
On the water, Chase was in for a battle, as expected, in the Open Women's final, with Katie Clark (University of British Columbia) and Layla Balloch (University of Victoria) finishing just ahead of the OUA champion.
"I knew that it was going to be tough," said Chase. "I knew, going in, that they were quick, so I was happy with how it went. With it being that close, I try to make sure to not get ahead of myself, or get too excited if I do get out front."
Now comes the challenge of the off-season grind. "We're back into winter training now, edging in the morning and spending time with the team," she said. "You're working towards getting faster for the spring, but it's definitely mentally tough, staring at the same wall, doing the same workout."
"There's not much difference, except maybe seeing slightly different numbers. That's a big part of why we try and do it together as a team."
It's also a process that Laurentian rowing coach Amanda Schweinbenz both understands and appreciates, most notably as athletes strive to work their way further and further up the rowing echelon.
"Progress to the national team isn't driven by me, it's driven by the athletes," said Schweinbenz, who has now worked with her fair share of elite rowers, including former Voyageur and current national team member, Carling Zeeman.
"If they want to make the national team and they want to row for Canada, then I will lay out what is required. It's not going to be exactly the same for every single athlete, but if you want to row U23, if you want to row U21, if you want to row Canada Games, this is what you have to be able to do, and that requires this amount of training, this amount of technical work."
"The amount of work that the senior (national) team does is significantly more than any of the athletes here," Schweinbenz added. "Carling, right now, is doing 40 to 50 kilometres a day on the water - minimum."
"The most rowing that our team would do, on the water, is about 20 to 24 kilometres in one day - and they don't do that every single day, because their bodies aren't able to do that mileage. They have to build up."
"I am trying to develop them technically (at Laurentian) to be able to hold the mileage that they hold here, so that if and when they go on to a national team, they are physically and technically strong enough, and that they have some base."
"Doing 50 kilometres a day, every day, takes a huge psychological toll on your psyche," added Schweinbenz. "That is a lot of work. Doing it day in and day out, on the water whether it's raining or snowing or just horrible outside, is hard."
This brings us back to Hayley Chase, who along with Charles Alexander, has enjoyed a measure of success in earning opportunities to represent Canada at levels that are a notch or two below the national team.
"She's not U23 anymore, she older, and there is no heavyweight senior team this year, because of the Olympics," explained Schweinbenz.
"There are some opportunities for some of these athletes to be racing. Hayley has to decide how that would fit in, both in terms of her long-term goals, but also how this all fits in with her schooling."
"If she decides to push to 2024, then this isn't a bad summer to finish some school stuff off - as long as they don't stop training completely."
"I am focused on trying to continue to get faster over the winter and see what my options are when trials come," Chase stated. "The trials are for the U23 team, and this summer, the university games (FISU) are happening as well. Those are two streams you can go into, but those are an age thing, as well."
All of which means we will have to check in with Chase and Schweinbenz and the entire L.U. rowing crew again just a few months down the road, when the ice and the snow lift from the waters of Lake Ramsey.
Canadian University Rowing Championship Recap: Chase was not the only rower donning the blue and gold at CURC nationals, as freshman Abbey Maillet qualified for the Women's Lightweight Single "A" final, finishing fifth in a time of 8:15.42.
As for Charles Alexander, he overcame the disappointment of missing out on the "A" final by just two seconds, bouncing back to claim victory in the "B" grouping, clocking in at 5:59.19, good for seventh place, overall.