2023 Row Ontario Annual Award Winners Announced
Announcement/ Feb 16

2023 Row Ontario Annual Award Winners Announced

An outstanding 2023 season on and off the water in the Ontario rowing community was celebrated on Friday with the announcement of Row Ontario’s 2023 Annual Award winners.

A deserving group of award winners included athletes, clubs, coaches, umpires, and volunteers as nine annual award winners were announced, along with 50 long service award recipients and 43 volunteer certificate recipients.

Headlining the award winners on the water was Elizabeth Najjar of the Don Rowing Club, who won the coveted Athlete of the Year award. Najjar had an impressive 2023 season from start to finish, earning a total of 17 gold medals in races she entered in boats ranging from singles, doubles, pairs and quads. She began her season with a gold medal in the single at the CSSRA Championships in June, and then took on international competitors from the USA, Mexico, and Bahamas at the CanAmMex International Regatta in July, earning three golds in the single, double and quad respectively. Her most impressive feat may have come at the Row Ontario Championships just two weeks later, where she earned a total of six gold medals. The sixteen-year-old picked up four gold medals in one race with the fastest time in the women’s single, beating out all 85 U17, U19, U23, and Senior competitors, en route to claiming first place in all four age divisions. She ended her season with more gold medals on the fall regatta circuit. Off the regatta course, Najjar is a young leader at Don’s and very involved in the local rowing community. She is committed to personal development, teamwork, and supporting other club members development and regularly participates in community volunteering beyond her participation in rowing. She was a significant help with Don’s Come-Try-It Day and volunteered with the Junior Summer Camp. Her consistent display of integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the water makes her an excellent role model for young rowers.

The two coaching awards went to Connor Elsdon of the Argonaut Rowing Club and Marley Mullan of the Ottawa Rowing Club, who took home the Competitive Coach of the Year and Learn to Row/Recreational Coach of the Year respectively.

On the regatta course, Elsdon coached a junior program with 119 total rowers, an all-time high for the Argonaut Rowing Club. The junior crews combined for a total of 58 medals in 2023, including notable medal performances at the RowOn Small Boat Trials, RowOn Championships, Head of the Charles, and Head of the Schuylkill. Six of the Argo’s junior athletes qualified for the 2023 CanAmMex team, winning two silver medals, and Elsdon brought a total of 65 juniors to the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, the largest ever group of juniors from Argo’s to compete at Henley. Off the regatta course, Elsdon worked diligently to build coach development into the culture at Argos, running multiple LTR Coach and RCA Coach sessions. He also brought in many new volunteer coaches, worked with the Board of Directors to develop a coach mentorship program, worked with registered dieticians to deliver eight classes on healthy eating, proper fueling and recognizing the signs of overtraining, and spearheaded several successful grant applications. He also worked on his own development as a coach, applying for a Mentor Express program to improve his skills relating to Sport Psychology and creating a robust mental training plan for the Junior Team at Argos.

At the Ottawa Rowing Club, Mullan was extremely active in trying to grow the sport throughout the National Capital Region’s marginalized communities. She developed and delivered the first rowing program designed for athletes with intellectual disabilities in Canada, marking the first-time rowing was involved as a Special Olympics sport. She also planned and coached all the club’s ‘Everybody Rows’ events, welcoming more than 200 individuals from marginalized communities into the rowing community. Her impressive work led her to being asked to be a guest speaker at the RCA National Conference, where she shared her experience about working to improve the accessibility and inclusion of rowing. Additionally, Mullan coached 2-3 learn to row sessions per week, and put an incredible amount of thought into her programming, showing how much she cares about the athletes she coaches as people, emphasizing socialization and a sense of belonging in all her sessions.

The 2023 Chair’s Award was awarded to Deb Cumming of the Hanlan Boat Club. Cumming, who was a member of the University of Toronto’s first ever women’s eight, has been busy developing and running Hanlan’s youth rowing program for approximately 20 years. The program is free for 13–18-year-olds from underserved neighbourhoods, many who would otherwise not be exposed to rowing, while other Toronto youth attend for a modest fee. Cumming identifies and works with agencies and youth clubs each year to set up the program and organizes club volunteers to help run the camp. Her passion and dedication is always evident throughout the five week-long programs each summer and her care for every youth in the program is always evident and was one of the big reasons for the camp’s success. Her passion is infectious and shared by everyone who volunteers with her. Cumming was honoured by Hanlan earlier this year with the naming of their new double the ‘Deb Cumming’ thanks to her efforts to developing the rowing camp and her dedication in running it.

The Peterborough Rowing Club was also honoured for their exceptional year on and off the water with the Club of the Year award. On the water, the PRC attended 11 competitive regattas including the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta and Head of the Charles. In addition, they had club representation at both the National Team Selection Camp and the Western Canadian Beach Sprint Championships with three members rowing at the National level. Overall, the PRC came home with 95 medals, including an impressive five Henley golds. Off the water, they worked hard at growing their participation and capacity. They continued to perform outreach programs to schools through their ‘PeterboroughROWS’ program, which has seen them introduce the sport of rowing to 2725 people over the last three years. They also developed on water programs for groups such as the New Canadian Centre and TRACKS (an indigenous summer camp program) and of course hosted many try it days to coordinate with their Learn to Row schedule. Their high quality of programming has led to a high retention rate through their learn to row and return to row programs.

Additionally, the PRC collaborated extensively with local stakeholders and clubs throughout the rowing community in a variety of ways, including hosting a Juniors and Masters training camp at Club Espana in Mexico City in March which included members of the Don Rowing Club; hosting six competitive junior rowers from Spain for the summer season to provide a cultural experience for their rowers and to support language and rowing development; reaching out to the LaSalle Club for support in starting a para rowing program; sending their masters athletes to attend Hanlan’s Beach Sprints Camp; collaborating with other clubs such as Ottawa, Argos, Hanlan, Dons, St Catharines, and Georgian Bay to develop membership models; and hosting Head of the Trent – largest head race in the country and in 2023 the fourth largest regatta engaging both universities and clubs across Ontario, Quebec and abroad.

A member of the PRC was also honoured on Friday as Riley Watson was named the recipient of the High School Bursary Award. Watson had a busy 2023 season, during which he rowed for St. Peter’s Catholic S.S. during the high school season, the PRC during the club season, and Brock University during his first year at university. He excelled on the water, winning gold medals in multiple boat classes at every level throughout the year, which led to an invite to attend the National Team Selection Camp. He ended his rowing season by winning two golds (lightweight pair, lightweight double) at the OUA Championships and gold in the lightweight double at the Canadian University Championships. Watson has a long history of involvement in his community through sport and volunteerism and worked as a Summer Program Coach at the PRC last summer in between his impressive regatta results. He was invaluable member of the coaching staff at the club and went out of his way to help cultivate an inviting environment for new athletes at the club.

Two long-time umpires were also announced as award winners as Bill Donegan received the Umpire Lifetime Achievement Award and Robb Blacquiere was named Umpire of the Year.

Donegan got his start in umpiring in 1990 by umpiring local events and received his FISA (World Rowing) license in 1994. Since that time, he has been appointed to numerous international juries, including the Pan Am Games (1999, 2007), World Rowing Cup events (2009, 2013, 2017), and World Rowing Championships (2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018). In 2021, the highlight of his umpiring career took place in Tokyo when he was a member of the jury at the Olympic Games. Donegan has also continued to umpire at Ontario regattas every year and has been heavily involved in umpire education. Despite a lengthy umpire career already, Donegan is not slowing down, as in 2023 alone, he was on the jury of ten regattas and served as Chief Umpire for three of those events.

Blaquiere was Chief Umpire at several large Ontario regattas this year, including the CSSRA Championships, RowOn Masters Championships, and RowOn Championships. Throughout these events he displayed an accessible and approachable leadership style with umpires, coaches, and athletes alike while adding a fresh perspective and proving to be successful in building strong teams of umpires at each event. In total he umpired at eight regattas in 2023, and travelled out of the Niagara region to regattas when the local umpire base wasn’t sufficient to fill the required positions. His readiness and availability to volunteer was an enormous help and allowed some Organizing Committees to run the event smoothly.

Chosen by an online vote by their peers in the Ontario rowing community, the Performance of the Year winners are Sophie Corradini and Katrina Miehlbradt of the Argonaut Rowing Club / University of Toronto. The duo, who have been rowing the lightweight double together since 2019 at Argos and U of T, had their award-winning performance at the Head of the Charles in September. Due to current living situations this was the first summer they were unable to train together but when Miehlbradt’s home club, West End Rowing Club in New Zealand got an entry in the Championship 2x at the Charles, they were reunited. Miehlbradt was able to fly back to Ontario and train with Corradini for only two weeks prior to Head of the Charles, but despite the limited preparations they placed first in the lightweight division and second overall, beating all but one open weight entry (which was comprised of national team athletes). A remarkable achievement for a U23 crew with limited prep time.

2023 Row Ontario Annual Award Winners
Athlete of the Year – Elizabeth Najjar, Don Rowing Club
Competitive Coach of the Year – Connor Elsdon, Argonaut Rowing Club
Learn to Row Coach of the Year – Marley Mullan, Ottawa Rowing Club
Club of the Year – Peterborough Rowing Club
Chair’s Award – Deb Cumming, Hanlan Boat Club
High School Bursary Award – Riley Watson, St. Peters Catholic S.S. / Brock University
Umpire of the Year – Robb Blacquiere
Umpire Lifetime Achievement Award – Bill Donegan
Performance of the Year – Sophie Corradini and Katrina Miehlbradt, Argonaut Rowing Club / University of Toronto

Long Service Awards
Given to participants of a member club who has volunteered in the Ontario rowing community for 15 years or more.

15 Years
Graham Bolton – Argonaut Rowing Club
Jason van Ravenswaay – Argonaut Rowing Club
Christie Lashley – Collingwood Rowing Club
Carrie Strachan – Don Rowing Club
Sarah Ward – Hanlan Boat Club
Barb Davidson – Orillia Rowing Club
Joan Robertson – Ottawa New Edinburgh Club
Louise Binette – Ottawa New Edinburgh Club
Nancy Fischer – Peterborough Rowing Club
Andrew Carr – St. Catharines Rowing Club
Bob Ralph – St. Catharines Rowing Club
Sharon Ralph – St. Catharines Rowing Club
Charles Riches – St. Catharines Rowing Club

20 Years
Debbie Wood – Argonaut Rowing Club
Jennifer Durward – Durham Rowing Club
Keely Smith – Durham Rowing Club
Hans Hansen – Guelph Rowing Club
Harold Murray – Hanlan Boat Club
Deb Cumming – Hanlan Boat Club
Mary Ann Repa – Leander Boat Club
Deb Laroque – Leander Boat Club
Rhonda Lauer – Orillia Rowing Club
Barb Pidgen – Orillia Rowing Club
Ron Pidgen – Orillia Rowing Club
Liz Iannizzi – St. Catharines Rowing Club
Mike Petrychanko – St. Catharines Rowing Club

25 Years
Pippa Hobbes – Argonaut Rowing Club
Rebecca Orr – Argonaut Rowing Club
Mark Jansen – Leander Boat Club
Craig Pollock – Leander Boat Club

30 Years
Bill Donegan – Argonaut Rowing Club
Ken Hoard – Peterborough Rowing Club

35 Years
Bob Blunt – Argonaut Rowing Club
Amber Oke – Don Rowing Club
Eric Szonyi – Hanlan Boat Club
Ralph Manktelow – Hanlan Boat Club
Sue Gustavison – Hanlan Boat Club
Scott Anderson – St. Catharines Rowing Club
Dave Wright – St. Catharines Rowing Club

40 Years
Susan Kitchen – Canadian Indoor Rowing Association
Nancy Sweete – Don Rowing Club
Doug Kerr – St. Catharines Rowing Club
Al Shynal – St. Catharines Rowing Club

45 Years
Brant Ottnad – Don Rowing Club

50 Years
Joe Lyttle – Argonaut Rowing Club
Jim Lyttle – Argonaut Rowing Club
Dave Derry – St. Catharines Rowing Club

55 Years
George Gage – Leander Boat Club

60 Years
Silvio Palumbi – CSSRA
Henley Island Helpers – St. Catharines Rowing Club

Club Volunteer Certificates
Presented by member clubs to their hard-working volunteers who have invested countless time and energy into the sport of rowing.

Argonaut Rowing Club
Piper Treadwell
Cameron Crockett
Shannon Pearson
Bahram Farahbakhsh
Rebecca Orr
Bob Bubba

Brockville Rowing Club
Larry Holmes

Collingwood Rowing Club
John Megarry

Don Rowing Club
Amey Paradkar
Steve Dmytrasz
Alexander Kollman

Durham Rowing Club
Diane Martin

Guelph Rowing Club
Joanne Ryks
David Barker

Hanlan Boat Club
Shelagh Baker
Monica Ross
Jules Poulin
Cody Tops

Island Lake Rowing Club
Gord Copland
Val Moore
Elizabeth Rouse

Leander Boat Club
Mark Jansen
James Sinclair
Craig Pollock

Ontario Adventure Rowing
Elaine Bursztyn

Orillia Rowing Club
Ron Pidgen

Ottawa New Edinburgh Club
Carl Shaver

Peterborough Rowing Club
Simon Grasdal
Dave Kubica
Hannah Harper

St. Catharines Rowing Club
Travis King
Jacob Thomas
Jacob Tyrer
Hunter Young
Madeline Hingston
Olivia Jose
Owen Powell
Lindsay Sferrazza
Mike Di Benedetto
Pat Morris

University of Toronto Rowing
Jacqueline Watt

Welland International Flatwater Centre
Aanson Findlater

Western Rowing
John Lewis

Certificates and Long Service Award pins will be sent to all clubs who submitted nominations for distribution to their award winners at a later date.

Row Ontario thanks everyone throughout the Ontario rowing community who submitted nominations and/or votes for the 2023 Awards, and for making 2023 a year to remember.