In an energized display of competitiveness and cohesion, the men’s and women’s crew teams kicked off their seasons with 4-0 records and wins across the board. At both the Wes-hosted head race on Saturday, March 29 and the one in Hadley, Mass. this past Saturday, April 5, every Cardinal boat finished first in its respective race.
Opening the season against the Coast Guard Academy on the Connecticut River, the women’s team raced two Coast Guard boats: a first varsity (1V) eight and a novice eight. The Wesleyan 1V boat dominated its race, finishing in 7:04.4. It held a crushing near-30-second lead over its opponent, which finished in 7:33.0. The Cardinals have so many rowers that Wesleyan’s 2V and 3V boats raced against each other, with times of 7:24.0 and 7:47.8, respectively. Wesleyan’s 2V boat cruised in with a time of 7:24.0, which would have given it a comfortable win over Coast Guard’s 1V, while the 3V finished in 7:47.8.
The men’s varsity eight completed the 2,000-meter course in 6:15.7, beating out the Coast Guard’s time of 6:32.9. The 2V defeated its Coast Guard counterpart by a similar margin, finishing in 6:18.6 over the Coast Guard’s 6:35.3.
“We had a fantastic day out there,” said Captain Nick Petrillo ’14. “Our varsity and our second boat both won by pretty large margins. The Coast Guard this year has a new coach, and we were expecting it to be a competitive race. They were definitely better than they’ve been, and they’re on the real ascent. So we went in there, you know, nervous but prepared to face a real challenger. And I think we went out there and executed what we wanted to do. They stuck with us for the first 20 or 30 strokes, but then we started sort of pulling away and tried not to look back ever since.”
Women’s team’s Captain Kayla Cloud ’14 also reflected positively on the start of the season.
“It’s fun to open up the season with a race at home because then we have more of a support than we usually do,” she said. “We had a lot of confidence going in, and I think we used that to our advantage and had a lot of power, even though technically we’re still looking to improve a lot of things.”
Hannah Brigham ’17, who is in the 2V boat, noted the Wesleyan spirit and energy that permeated the crowd that was watching the race from shore.
“As we launch[ed], the rest of the team was on the dock chanting the Wes fight chant,” Brigham said. “Getting cheered on by the rest of the team and everyone else was really cool.”
For most novices on both the men’s and women’s teams, this head race was their first. A walk-on to the team last fall, Sarah Lazarus ’17 described her experience in the race.
“Time-wise it was really good, but also it felt good,” Lazarus said. “I’ve always played field or racing sports in high school. But crew is different: one boat, one team. There’s no personal glory to it. It’s really fun to work with the team.”
Connor Schon ’16, a transfer student who joined the men’s team as a newcomer to the sport, rowed in the men’s 2V and thought positively of the race.
“I was pretty nervous going in,” Schon said. “It was [my] first real race. But [I was] also very excited at the same time. And it went very well. We beat the Coast Guard by a couple boat lengths. I think it was a success for the team.”
In its second head race of the season, WesCrew traveled to Hadley, Mass. to race against three other schools. The men faced boats from Colby, Middlebury, and UMass Amherst while the women competed against Colby, Middlebury, and Smith rowers. Because the current was so strong, the length of all races was shortened to 1800m instead of the conventional 2000m.
The Cardinal men’s 1V finished first in 5:22.6 with Middlebury seven seconds behind; UMass beat Colby by a fraction of a second for third place. Wesleyan’s 2V won its race in 6:16.7, a full 28 seconds ahead of the nearest opponent, Middlebury. The Novice 8 demolished UMass’ and Middlebury’s 3V boats, finishing with a time of 7:11.4; UMass was Wesleyan’s closest competition at 7:35.64.
The Wesleyan women 1V secured first place in 6:54.5, beating Middlebury’s second place boat by three seconds. The 2V boat dominated its race with a 21-second edge over the nearest boat from Colby. The Cardinal 3V boat won by an even wider margin, crossing the finish line at 8:11.3, a remarkable 42 seconds ahead of second-place Smith. Finally, Wesleyan’s Novice 8 secured the Red and Black sweep of the head race in 7:52.87.
“I thought that it went really well given the conditions,” Brigham said. “There was a super, super strong head current, as well as a gusting wind, which made it kind of difficult to set the boat. But I thought that we executed our moves really well and [were] able to pull away really quickly.”
Rowers showed high optimism about the races, the season to come, and the team as a whole. WesCrew is headed to Malden, Mass. this Saturday, April 12. The women are competing against Tufts, Bates, and Wellesley; the men are racing Tufts, Bates, and UNH.
“Goals have shifted from an individual thing, like getting your erg score down and getting your technique down, to moving as a boat and working with the boat,” Brigham said. “[It’s] more of a group focus.”