This weekend, the men’s and women’s crew teams shipped out to Boston to compete in one of the biggest rowing events in the world: the Head of the Charles Regatta. After strong performances on both sides at the weather-abridged Textile River Regatta two weeks ago in Lowell, MA, the teams put in on the mazy Charles River with lofty ambitions.
It was a brisk, windy weekend in Massachusetts, which made the coxswains’ job even more vital throughout the 4.8-kilometer race, as a headwind bore down on rowers from across the world all weekend long.
The women and men each raced a varsity eight and a varsity four in the Collegiate Eights and the Collegiate Fours divisions of the competition; the men also raced a four in the Club four division. One step below the Championship division, which houses the cream of the collegiate crew crop, the Collegiate division consists of many DI teams and the best DIII teams, including NESCAC schools. The varsity eight is the premier event for the crews, and both placed well this year.
The women’s varsity eight had the best finish of any Wesleyan boat at the regatta, starting in 13th and finishing in seventh place, just two spots off of a medal position. The boat, commanded by coxswain Elisa Greenberg ’18, got off to a hot start, in fifth position at the riverside, the first split time, but by next measurement, at Weld, they’d fallen back to tenth, and held their position, but did not improve it, headed into the final phase of the race. It was then that the oarswomen put the pedal to the metal, and climbed up three places to finish in seventh with a time of 18:11.054, barely 15 seconds out of medaling position.
Other NESCAC schools represented in the top seven, with Bates boats placing third and sixth, and a rival Williams crew taking home the gold.
Sarah Newman ’16, the bow seat of the varsity eight, expressed her satisfaction with the results.
“The crew really laid it out on the water despite the conditions and it was really an experience to able to row in such a large event,” she wrote in an email to The Argus.
Iryelis Lopez ’17, fourth seat in the varsity eight, added her thoughts.
“The Charles is always a race full of adrenaline and excitement, with crowds cheering for the entire 5K course,” she wrote in an email. “I really think Sunday we took all of the energy from the crowds and from our desire to go fast, and we harnessed it towards a strong finish.”
The Cardinal women racing in the Collegiate Four division finished 18th in a field of 35 on Saturday, behind NESCAC rivals Bowdoin (4th, 15th), Trinity (9th), and Amherst (13th).
Captain Annie Dade ’16, fifth seat in the varsity eight, summarized the meaning of both results for the women’s team in an email.
“The varsity eight had its strongest placement in recent years, and this puts us in a great position for next year at the Charles,” she wrote. “They finished within the top three NESCAC schools that competed in that race, which is a big step for us as we look ahead to the competition in the spring. The women’s four also did very well on Saturday.”
The men’s varsity eight also placed well in the Collegiate Eight division, starting in 20th and finishing in 13th in a field of 41. The boat, steered by coxswain Emma Siegenberg ’18, came hot out of the gate, finding itself in seventh after the riverside split. It slid to 11th at the next split, Weld, and continued sliding to 15th by the Cambridge/BC split. It had to pick it up a notch down the stretch, but couldn’t pass Minerva or College of the Holy Cross, who were just ahead, finishing the race in 15:53.324. Initially placing 15th, the Cardinal boat jumped up two places when both of those schools incurred five-second penalties.
“It went fine; it felt really good, so it was too bad that we didn’t place better,” said varsity eights’ seventh seat Colin Mattox ’17. “It’s the kind of course where the coxswain has a lot to do, and Emma [Siegenberg] did a really good job, but the conditions changed a lot, and there was a lot of wind and different things factoring in.”
Hobart College finished in first with a time of 15:32.704, and, more frustratingly for Cardinal rowers, a Williams boat finished in third, and a Trinity boat in 11th. Also, WPI, whom the Cards had beaten handily a few weeks ago, finished in sixth, showing just how tight this division was.
“It’s always disappointing when you don’t win or medal,” Mattox continued. “We know we’re right up there with the teams that medaled [finished in the top 5], and so it’s tough that we didn’t show it in the race, but we’re just looking forward to the Head of the Fish and the spring.”
In the Collegiate Fours division, the Cardinals placed a boat in 20th position out of 46, which is where it had started. A Wesleyan boat also placed an impressive 14th out of 53 in the Club Fours division to round out competition on the men’s side.
Mattox commented on what it’s like to race in one of rowing’s premier events.
“The Head of the Charles is fun because it’s such a big race and it definitely shifts our focus that it’s over, but it’s not the end,” Mattox said. “We’re going to start erging and we’ll be working hard all winter and we’ll be ready when the spring comes.”
Taking place in Saratoga Springs, the Head of the Fish Regatta will be the final competition of the fall season for both crews. It will give each squad a chance to get more boats in the water, giving novices a chance to prove themselves, and Coaches Carney and Tynan a chance to take final stock of their squads heading into next year.
“All in all, we are happy with the racing this weekend and are looking forward to the Head of the Fish in two weekends,” Dade wrote. “The Fish will be the last race of our fall season and we’re pumped to leave it all on the water before we head indoors for winter training.”
The same is true for the men’s team.
“I think we had a really solid piece and I’m very happy with how our boat handled the conditions,” captain Chris Nanda ’16 told The Argus. “The results were disappointing, but we’re getting ready for the Head of the Fish and the spring season. The margins this past weekend are certainly not too big to overcome with a strong winter training.”