Upper Canada College has a proud rowing tradition, and two generations of UCC rowers recently worked together to establish indoor rowing in Toronto’s public school system.
UCC Year 12 varsity rower Ben Givertz Steel started a learn to row program at Whitney Junior Public School. With help from UCC coach Grant Boyd, UCC ergs (rowing machines) were set up one day in February in Whitney’s gym and Givertz Steel demonstrated proper technique to 33 enthusiastic kids in grades three through six.
The machines were an instant hit and teacher Asher Wittenberg and parents arranged the purchase of eight of them from Havergal College so that the program could continue. The ergs have been in constant use since then.
Givertz Steel coached the “Whitney Rowing Club” as its students prepared to race 500 metres in the second annual Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Indoor Rowing Championships on April 20 at Fern Public School.
Old Boy rower Eric Szonyi ’88, Givertz Steel’s uncle, organized the championships, which included groups from six schools.
Szonyi rowed at UCC from 1984 to 1988 under coaches Dan Coholan and Mike Nurse and has competed in the sport ever since. Szonyi is the current Canadian Masters C champion and the captain of Hanlan Boat Club. He’s also the principal of Fern Public School.
University of Toronto varsity rowers and Hanlan rowers were on hand to help with the TDSB event, which is expected to grow and involve more schools next year.
The Whitney kids had a great time and achieved several personal bests and three medal finishes. They’re excited to have been introduced to rowing and hope that UCC varsity rowers will coach them again next year.