Women’s crew came in first out of 28 boats in the women’s collegiate eight race at the 52nd Annual Head of the Charles Regatta, taking home gold at one of the world’s largest and most prestigious races. This marks the first time in program history that a Wesleyan boat has captured a varsity title at the Head of the Charles. The boat, which raced on Sunday, Oct. 23, was manned by coxswain Rachael Crunkleton ’20 and eight rowers: Sarah Osborn ’19, Clara Babbott-Ward ’20, Emma Halter ’17, Allison Quintana ’19, Annalee Holmdahl ’17, Ricky Flowers ’19, Amanda Molitor ’18, and Ava Miller-Lewis ’17. This was the team’s first race of the season against Williams, last year’s NESCAC champion, who finished in third after Wesleyan and Ithaca College on Sunday.
“We rowed a smart race,” said Osborn. “It was one of the most focused and internal races I’ve ever done.”
Bates jumped out to an early lead, with the Cardinals in a pack of boats close behind. When the boats settled in a bit more, Ithaca took a solid lead with Bates in 2nd, Williams in 3rd, and Wesleyan in 4th. Bates began to lag behind as the teams entered the home stretch, with Wesleyan holding onto its lead as the boats crossed the finish.
The race was highlighted by capricious winds that made for tough sailing conditions. But the Cardinals seemed to deal with this challenge better than their competitors, partially due to their rookie coxswain’s navigational acumen.
“[Crunkleton] was amazing at steering and cut the shortest course possible in the abysmal conditions that afternoon,” said Osborn. “We raced in 20 mph winds with 45 mph gusts, which was definitely really difficult, but we were prepared in that we didn’t let the weather dictate how we were going to row, which is really hard to do.”
Their ultimate margin of victory was about .96 seconds over Ithaca, 3.88 over Williams, and 9.12 over Bates. No other team finished within 30 seconds of the dominant first four boats. Among the other teams that the Cardinals topped were NESCAC foes Tufts (7th), Colby (13th), Trinity (15th), Amherst (16th), and Middlebury (21st).
This marked the women’s second win in as many races this fall. They previously won the 12-team Riverfront Recapture Regatta on Oct. 2. Their autumn schedule has just one more race as they look to complete a perfect season at the Head of the Fish Regatta this weekend. Regardless of the results, the team appears in good shape to make a run at the NESCAC title and a return trip to Nationals.
The men’s varsity 8 did not live up to their internal expectations after also winning their race at the Riverfront Recapture. The team finished 21st out of 37 teams, and damaged their boat in a collision with Boston College. The varsity 4 did somewhat better, placing 13th out of 43 boats. Both the women’s varsity and club fours performed well enough to qualify for next year’s competition.
Osborn was understandably thrilled with her team’s performance.
“We never could have won without everyone on the team putting in 100 percent,” said Osborn. “My team is made up of exceedingly supportive, determined, and hard-working women, and I can’t stress how lucky I feel to be a part of such a cohesive group.”
She also commented on the team’s transition to a younger group of rowers.
“We lost a lot of seniors this year and our squad is much smaller this year, which was originally daunting,” she said. “But now I think it made us much better because everyone is accountable and is in a boat.”
Both the men and women’s team end their season this weekend in Saratoga Springs, NY at the Head of the Fish.