World Class Women’s Crew

Jessie Slenker

The Cardinals weren’t the only visitors in Boston last weekend, as thousands turned out for the largest fall regatta in the world on the Charles River.It is very hard to translate into words what the women’s crew team felt during Sunday’s world-renowned Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR). The women went into this head race with one goal: to go get Ithaca College. Out of hundreds of rowers from various schools, clubs and world teams, the women’s Varsity ‘A’ focused solely on beating its local opponent. And unlike the Cardinals, Colgate did that and more.The HOCR is quite a spectacular event, with thousands of spectators lining bridges and a plethora of rowing legends on the water. Despite the regalia, all heads turned to the river once the races commenced. With its tight turns and sharp divides, the way a coxswain steers their crew during the race can literally make or break a boat. Luckily for the Colgate women, sophomore coxswain Margaux Jackson was right on course. “I think the performance of the day goes to Margaux,” women’s Head Coach Greg Kruczynski said. “The ability for a coxswain to correctly maneuver through the turns is crucial for a good finish at the HOCR. We would not have done nearly as well without Margaux at the helm.” The numerous hours Margaux spent studying the course, matched with the intense training schedule the women have pushed through since September, resulted in a ninth place finish out of 50 teams in the collegiate division. A top 10 finish at such a prestigious event was “a great showing for the team,” Kruczynski said.Such a good finish was anything but expected for the women, considering that they had a few shaky practices prior to the race and the race course water was rough. The race was shortened by about 500 meters due to choppy waters, which gave both the men’s and women’s teams less warm-up time. Difficulties during the Colgate women’s race also added tension and excitement, making their finish even more impressive. “Ithaca was forced to take the outside turns…and the fact that they steered into us and we clashed oars only intensified the situation,” Jackson said. “Basically, it was wild screaming from [the Elliot Bridge] to the finish…We moved, they moved, we moved, but in the end we finished one seat up on them and about 15 seconds ahead.” The Colgate women were ecstatic about the race and the collective effort put forth by the team. “Determination got us through the finish line,” senior Meg Whittaker said. “We went to the HOCR with a mission to prove that we were one of the best, and I think we proved it. No rower was rowing just for themselves; we put it all out there and we succeeded because of that.” The women will be using their results at the Charles to prepare for shorter sprint races in the spring. “We were able to beat Holy Cross, Army and Lehigh within our event [on Sunday],” Kruczynski said. “We did, however, fall to West Virginia, Buffalo and Villanova, all of whom we will see at the ECACs at the end of the spring. We do have some work to do over the winter training period.” Despite nerves and bad weather, the Colgate women were proud of their results and even happier to be rowing in such a famed event. “It was surreal to be racing in the same regatta as the U.S. National team as well as all of the other remarkably talented teams,” sophomore Laura Lunn said. “Regardless of the level of ability, there was an evident camaraderie between crews that was really encouraging.”The Colgate men’s varsity eight showed exemplary skill as it raced in the Championship heat of Men’s Eights. Rowing against the U.S. National Team, Oxford University, Harvard and Yale, to name just a few, the men placed 28th out of 37 teams. An invitation into this heat is an accomplishment in itself, but the men were hoping to finish higher.”This is a very selective and competitive event, and not everyone who wants to race in the championship division is given the opportunity,” men’s Head Coach Khaled Sanad said. “It is an international event, so not only were we racing against the top collegiate crews from the U.S., we were also racing against top European crews and national team programs from the U.S. and the Netherlands. It was nice to see that Colgate can compete at this level of rowing.”The men did not have their best race, but they did prevail over competitive schools such as Temple and Marietta. “Our race was a little rocky and it was hard to live up to the expectations we set for ourselves with our win at the Stonehurst Regatta,” senior Mike McCarthy said. “Even so, we finished among a group of elite rowing programs, beating perennially ranked programs. The fact that we were disappointed with that finish shows how far we’ve come in the last two years. Overall it was a great weekend.”Lack of preparation was not a factor in the men’s race, as the Colgate men have spent endless hours perfecting their technique and strength. “I feel that we were well prepared for the race in terms of attitude and conditioning,” senior Paul Kelly said. “There weren’t any huge steering issues, crashes or collisions, but I think we could have had a better course.” Senior Brendan Matthews, but looks to the future for improvement. “There was power behind our strokes, we just didn’t apply it together,” Matthews said. “This week we’ll work on the connection and swing, which will increase boat speed and make us row cleaner.”After both crews loaded their new boats back onto the trailer, senior rowers from both crews had time to reflect about their last race at the Charles. “You always think your last race will be that perfect race with the perfect finish, Matthews said. When it doesn’t go as planned, you are somewhat disappointed. The HOCR, though it’s important to finish well, should be rowed for the experience of rowing in the largest fall regatta in the world, against the top programs from around the world. There is no need to put more stress on yourself to be perfect; the prestige of this event does enough of that. You’ve just got to put out on the water, relax and let it happen.” The nostalgic sentiment of leaving the Charles was echoed by Kelly, who learned to row on the Charles in high school. “It was definitely tough racing the HOCR for the last time with Colgate and possibly ever,” Kelly said. “It is an amazing race and the atmosphere around the course is unparalleled by any other U.S. rowing event.”The women’s boat dedicated their race to Whittaker at the start line and promised to “pull their lives out” to make this race memorable. “I could not imagine a better race to end on,” Whittaker said. “I am so thankful that I rowed with such a great boat and with such a committed and dedicated group of women. This weekend is one race I will remember!” All Colgate crews return to the water tomorrow at the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga Springs, NY. This is the last race before the rowers return to the wrath of indoor training on the ergs.