The first year of the Junior program at the Pickering Dragon Boat Club was impressive as the team won three silver medals at Nationals this summer. Twenty-one of the 25 team members are students at Mowat.

by Eunice Chong

 Members of the junior division of the Pickering Dragon Boat Club (PDBC) celebrated as they wrapped up their medal-laden performance at the 2017 Canadian Dragon Boat Championships in Welland, Ontario, in  August.

It marked the inception of a junior program at PDBC, which certainly accomplished much in its first season as the team went into every regatta the underdogs and emerged victorious, regardless of the odds. The team’s cohesiveness likely had something to do with the fact that of the 25-person team, all but four currently attend Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute.

They were, as co-captain Taylor Hansen put it, “a ragtag group of kids of all ages and backgrounds who came together to accomplish incredibly difficult challenges.” Practices began before dawn three days a week on Frenchman’s Bay in Pickering, under the watchful eyes of coaches Megan Ballantyne and Scott Murray, the newly minted president of Dragon Boat Canada.

Training culminated in a sterling performance at Nationals from August 4-6 at the Welland International Flatwater Centre, a facility recently renovated for the 2015 Pan American Games. Pressure ran high as the PDBC Juniors competed in 200m, 500m and 2k races against teams from across Canada, all of them with more experience than Pickering, which had a long shot at the podium. However, the team trounced the competition with its second-place finishes in the three junior categories: mixed, women and open, each time losing out to the Dragon Zone Paddling Club, which is based in Vancouver, B.C., and an old hand at Nationals.

Co-captain Sarah Camacho commended her team for their spirit along with their silver medals: “I’m proud to be a part of a team that not only values hard work and commitment, but kindness and generosity, as I saw demonstrated throughout the three-day competition.”

The event was a qualifier for the 2018 Club Crew World Championships in Szeged, Hungary. PDBC Juniors’ success this year puts them in excellent position to perform with an older, more experienced crew next summer.

Looking ahead, Sarah remarked, “I am overjoyed to be travelling to Hungary in the summer of 2018 where we will be competing as one of the top junior teams for all of Canada. And, we are always looking for new members to grow our team and make it even greater than it already is.”
Eunice Chong is a Grade 12 student at Sir Oliver Mowat CI who is enthusiastic about English, chemistry and dragon boating. She also plays soccer and field hockey, and co-edits the school newspaper.