After a year away from competition, the Wesleyan crew teams finally got back into the water. In order to tell the story of the season so far, it is important to understand the role the pandemic played in the mindset of the team. Like many other activities, this crew season looks different than it has in prior years.
“Obviously the pandemic has really changed a lot of what we can do,” Emmett Nunes ’22 said. “A month ago we didn’t even know if we would be able to race, or row eights, or what any of it would look like. I think the biggest challenge was just getting ourselves into the mindset of a spring season on such short notice once we realized we had one, and focusing in on the things we can control and not worrying about everything else. But I think we’ve really risen to that challenge, despite the shorter season and everything else.”
Just getting back on the water was an exciting moment for the team.
“My favorite day so far has definitely been our first day back in eights,” Celia D’Amato ’22 said. “I think it was 36 degrees outside, the sun was already kind of setting, and since the docks weren’t out, we had to wade knee-deep into the Connecticut River to put our boats in the water—which is about as fun as its sounds. But after over a year of being apart, we were just excited to row together. The unity of a crew team is so important, and while we’d been doing our best to bond as a team in smaller groups and over Zoom, nothing really brings the social and literal cohesion that being out on the water together does.”
This unity has served both the women’s and men’s teams well, allowing both to weather the storm of the challenging training conditions and to begin the season strong.
Most exciting for the rowers has been the scorching-hot start to the season that the women’s team has enjoyed. On April 10, their first regatta of the season, the women’s team cruised past Tufts 2–0. This was a welcome surprise for a team that had no idea what to predict for their season’s prospects.
“This past month has been a good exercise in rowing without expectations,” D’Amato said. “There’s no way to compare this season to a typical season, and no way to compare ourselves to other teams we’re racing because we had no fall season. Over half of our team had their first spring race at Wesleyan just three weeks ago!”
If this is rowing without expectations, the rest of the NESCAC should shudder to think about what the Cardinals team is capable of with a little experience under their boats.
The women’s team went to Williams on April 17 and crushed the Ephs 3–0, securing its fourth consecutive Little Three title. As if this wasn’t enough success, on April 24 the women’s team braved the Thames River in Connecticut and glided past Trinity and Conn. College once again, sweeping the circuit.
When asked why the team has gotten off to such a hot start, D’Amato praised her coach.
“Something our coach, Pat Tynan, has been telling us at practices and regattas is to ‘be ourselves,’” D’Amato said. “Our performance on the water has nothing to do with how well another crew will race, so just staying focused on our own boat and pulling for ourselves is what I think has put us in a position to be as successful as we have been this spring. Every moment we don’t spend worrying about what another boat is doing is energy we can instead devote to rowing a faster race.”
Clearly this strategy has paid off for the Cards, as they have yet to lose a single race.
The men’s team, while not quite finding the success of the unstoppable women’s team, has put together a solid season of their own. They began strong, with the varsity 8s boat sailing past Tufts on April 10, and followed it up with a strong performance against Williams on April 17, losing by just three seconds in the varsity heat.
“After our races against Tufts and Williams, we have identified changes we need to make and are hoping to carry those through the final few weeks across the varsity boat and the second varsity,” Hayden Galusza ’22 said. “We have a much smaller team than past years. Getting a closely-knit squad to gel together in a short amount of time is our primary focus for the rest of the season.”
The closeness of the group was on full display on April 24, when the men’s teams were dominating Conn. and Trinity before an accident took out the varsity team’s boat. The second 8s still cruised to victory in their heat.
“Everyone in our field is extremely competitive, and we have some very tough competition coming up this weekend,” Galusza said. “We are really excited to test ourselves against some competitive crews.”
Beyond getting better, the men’s team is also just happy to be back in the water.
“Honestly, every day is the highlight,” Nunes said. “With last year ending the way it did, I feel incredibly lucky every time I get to go to the boathouse and practice with my team. It’s something a lot of athletes, at Wesleyan and other schools, haven’t gotten to do this year, and so I never want to take it for granted. We’re able to do the sport we love because of tremendous support from all parts of the Wesleyan community, but we also know every practice could be our last one, and coming in each day with that kind of knowledge attitude makes it all the more rewarding.”
With some boldness in her boat, D’Amato left us with a strong message.
“The women’s team is currently undefeated, and we’ve swept at all of our races this season—something you probably wouldn’t know from looking at the Wesleyan Athletics Instagram, since they never post about us,” D’Amato said.
Looking forward, both the women’s and men’s teams look poised to continue their stellar racing, with the NESCAC preliminaries coming up this weekend at Tufts.
John Vernaglia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org