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‘Amazing things can happen’

History-making Verso women’s crew comprised entirely of Memorial community members

Campus and Community

By Mandy Cook

Previous to this year, Royal St. John’s Regatta rules dictated that male crews rowed a 2.45-kilometre course at Quidi Vidi Lake and women rowed half that, or 1.225 kilometres.

A group of women smiling at the camera while standing and sitting in a boat, with other crews in the far ground and crowds of people on the shore.
From left, Emma Ramsay, Steph Davis, Alyssa Devereaux, Jane Brodie, Nancy Beaton, Katie Wadden and Connie Duffett cross the finish line at Quidi Vidi Lake on Aug. 5, 2022, moments after their historic long course race win.
Photo: Michelle Hickey

It was a distinguishing difference between the Royal St. John’s Regatta and any other regatta in the world. In the Olympics, for example, the standard rowing race course for men and women is the same: 2,000 metres.

However, during the past 30 years, some participants of the Royal St. John’s Regatta have been advocating for the option to compete in either distance, meaning women should be able to enter the short or long course, as should the men.

On Aug. 5, 2022, for the first time, women’s teams rowed the long course on Regatta Day. Team Verso took first place with a time of 10:28, with three other women’s crews participating.

Each member of Team Verso are also members of the Memorial community — something they say factored into the historic moment in a number of ways.

‘Paved the way’

“Each of our experiences at Memorial contributes to our personal and professional identities and likely paved the way for us to end up here on this crew,” said coxswain Emma Ramsay (B.Kin.’19, M.Sc.(Kinesiology)’21). “We are privileged to be a very educated group, and the opportunities we have from our academic and professional careers helped us to be able to row and participate in this movement.”

Alumna Dr. Katie Wadden (B.Kin.’08, M.Sc.(Kinesiology)’10) is a sessional instructor in Memorial’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, teaching exercise psychology.

“Girls and women need to see other girls and women performing feats that they were once told they couldn’t because of their gender.” — Dr. Katie Wadden

The topic of her course explores the importance of modelling to motivate individuals to adopt and adhere to exercise.

“We know that when individuals see others who are like them participating and performing in sport, it dramatically influences their self-perception,” said Dr. Wadden. “This was not lost on me on Regatta Day. Girls and women need to see other girls and women performing feats that they were once told they couldn’t because of their gender. This is how progress in sports and culture works.”

She also says that in the field of exercise science, only six per cent of studies were conducted exclusively on women from 2014–20 and that those kinds of statistics motivate her research at Memorial and her advocacy work at the Royal St. John’s Regatta.

For Connie Duffett (B.Comm.’02, MER’11), she says her Memorial University experience taught her the importance of teamwork, leadership, hard work and to “never accept the status quo.”

“Each and every member of our crew is a leader and an advocate for positive change,” she said. “Memorial is absolutely a part of who I am and has taught me skills to influence change. Rowing, like many other sports and especially for women, promotes confidence. I would love to see Memorial grow its athletics with a rowing crew. Amazing things can happen!”

Full Memorial roster

Team Verso are coxswain Emma Ramsay (B.Kin.’19, M.Sc.(Kinesiology)’21); rowers Stephanie Davis (B.Sc.(Pharmacy)’12); Alyssa Devereaux (B.Eng.’13); Dr. Jane Brodie (B.Eng.’13, B.Sc.’16, MD’20), general surgery resident, Faculty of Medicine; Nancy Beaton, instructional design technologist, CITL; Dr. Katie Wadden (B.Kin.’08, M.Sc.(Kinesiology)’10), sessional instructor, School of Human Kinetics and Recreation; Connie Duffett (B.Comm.’02, MER’11); and spares Dr. Amanda Hancock (M.Sc.’10, PhD’21), assistant professor, Faculty of Business, Grenfell Campus; and Kristine Power (MA’01), senior communications advisor, Memorial University Libraries.

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