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Women's eight brightens day for West Side Under-23s third in Henley Regatta

For Matt Logue, it hasn't been a disappointing year for the West Side Rowing Club at the 129th Royal Canadian Henley Regatta -- the results just aren't there.

The best West Side finish so far in the regatta was a third place by the Under-23 Women's Lightweight Eight of Erin Wylie, Ariana Rabin, Kayla VanCleave, Julia Hahn, Cornelia Willis, Hanna Victor, Monica Klenk, Andrea Muffoletto and coxswain Kate Ciminelli.

The same eight got a fourth place (1:38.34) in the Senior Lightweight Women's Dash, a 50-meter sprint.

West Side has two more chances at a gold medal today -- in the Senior Men's Eight and the Under-23 Men's Four -- but so far it's been a tough year for Buffalo's top rowing association.

On Friday, Logue, the club's director of boathouse operations, watched as only one West Side boat advanced to the finals. Six of the other nine boats came within one position of qualifying for a berth in either the finals or semifinals of their respective events.

"It hasn't been our most successful year, but I definitely wouldn't call it a down year for us," Logue said. "Our kids have raced hard and have been competitive in a lot of races, which is all that you can ask for. It's unfortunate that we are not in a lot more finals, but at the same time these kids are coming off the water saying, 'We didn't lose that race, the other teams just beat us.' "

Last year the club had two boats achieve prestigious Henley gold on Martindale Pond.

"It's frustrating," Logue said of the close misses in trials. "But looking back and talking with some of the coaches after the races, nobody would have done anything different. They all trained the best they could, put the lineups together the best they could and the kids raced the best they could. It is what it is."

Despite the lack of a gold medal, there is one bright spot this year. That's the resurgence of senior women's rowing at the club.

Last year West Side didn't even have enough rowers in the under-23 group to put together an eight, let alone qualify for a final heat. This year the club had five boats in senior and under-23 races.

"We had six senior women rowing last year. This year we have 26 senior women rowing," West Side senior women's coach Kerri Kanaley said. "We brought the numbers up a great deal, brought the hometown girls back home. For me and the senior women, it was a really big deal for us to raise the level of rowing."

Of the 26 rowers that Kanaley had for this year's regatta, 18 are Division I athletes, six of whom raced in West Side's successful senior eight boat. Wylie and VanCleave both row at the University of Wisconsin, Willis and Hahn are at UB, Ciminelli is a coxswain at Iowa, while Muffoletto is transfering to Georgetown in the fall. Kanaley also said that Klenk may row for Canisius College this year.

"I know for the juniors it was a disappointing year," Kanaley said. "But for the senior women it wasn't. We brought senior rowing back to West Side."

On Saturday, the women's senior lightweight eight got off to a fast start, but was unable to keep up with the University of Victoria Rowing Club, which finished 4.61 seconds in front of the West Siders.

But the result wasn't the only thing the group was working for. Ciminelli said that the opportunity to come back and compete for her hometown club was something that she looked forward to.

"I think with West Side, being the club that it is, we all know each other and every single one of us has raced together before," Ciminelli said. "Whether it be when we were freshman in high school, eighth grade, or within the past year, we've all had a strong connection with each other.

"I think that's one of the best things about West Side, is that everyone knows each other, gets along and we all respect each other."

The West Side mixed eight of Andre Sauvageau, Keith Pfirrman, Chase Crimmen, Kyle Good, Danielle Carlino, Allison Courtin, Frances McGuire, Brittney Knaszak, and coxswain Alison Todd competed in the Regatta Sport Dash for Cash, an annual event for charity. Each team pays $125 to enter with the winner taking the purse for its designated charity. Rowing for Women's and Children's Hospital, West Side was sixth in 1:31.98 for the 500 meters.