Quinten Richardson and Martin Barakso were destined to meet up on one of rowing’s biggest stages.
Both were decorated rowers at arch-rival high schools in the Cowichan Valley and went on to compete for Ivy League universities. This past weekend, they faced each other in one of the sport’s most storied events: the Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge in the U.K.
Richardson graduated from Shawnigan Lake School in 2010 and went on to earn a degree in urban studies at Brown University in Rhode Island. Barakso graduated from Brentwood College School in 2012, then earned his history degree at Princeton, in New Jersey. On Sunday, April 4, Richardson was in the No. 4 seat for Cambridge and Barakso in the No. 3 seat for Oxford in the 166th official Boat Race.
“It is quite extraordinary that two students from rival boarding schools here on Vancouver Island find themselves rowing against each other in this historic annual rowing race, watched across the world,” Shawnigan Head of School Richard Lamont commented. “Both are an inspiration to our current students as to where academics and sport can take you in life.”
Cambridge jumped off the line to surprise the favoured Oxford boat, and ended up winning by just under a length. It was Cambridge’s fourth victory in the last five races, improving their record to 85 wins overall, while Oxford has five, and the teams tied once. Cambridge also won the women’s race, their fourth in a row and 45th overall to Oxford’s 30.
The race usually takes place on the River Thames in London, but was moved to the River Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the first time since the Second World War that the teams competed on the Great Ouse.
Richardson, who is working on his MPhil in Planning, Grown and Regeneration at Cambridge, started rowing at Shawnigan, and was captain of men’s rowing in Grade 12. Although he was aware of the Boat Race from early in his career, thanks to a talk from an alumnus at Shawnigan, a lot of things had to go the right way for him to end up participating.
“I remember thinking about the Boat Race during high school and the idea was always there,” Richardson recalled in a statement released by Shawnigan. “The truth is, when you take up any sport, but in my experience, particularly rowing, it consumes so much of your time and your energy. And I’m passionate about my academic work. But looking back, rowing has really transformed my year in lockdown and I couldn’t be more thankful that I stuck with it.”
Richardson celebrated his 29th birthday the night before the race, and was the oldest rower in the Cambridge boat.
Barakso is working on his MSc at Oxford’s Latin American Centre. He got his start in the sport with the Nanaimo Rowing Club, a year before he went to Brentwood for Grade 9. He started rowing internationally in 2010, when he competed at the World Junior Championships, and has since represented Canada at the U23 and senior levels as well, collecting medals at the World U23 Championships, Pan American Games and World Cup.
This is the first time that products of Brentwood and Shawnigan have gone head-to-head in the Boat Race, one of the most prestigious competitions in rowing. As Brentwood rowing coach Brian Carr noted, only 16 athletes, from around the world, compete in the Boat Race each year, so it’s a remarkable achievement to be selected for one of the crews.
“Out of 16 kids, two are from our little Valley here, so that really says a lot about the strength of the programs in our area,” Carr noted.
Barakso is the fifth Brentwood grad to compete in the Boat Race, joining Michael Moran (Oxford 1977 and 1978), Morgan Crooks (Oxford 1999), Scott Frandsen (Oxford 2003), and Malcolm Howard (Oxford 2013 and 2014). Shawnigan grad Kip McDaniel, from Cobble Hill, rowed for Cambridge in 2006.