c/o Wesleyan Athletics

c/o Wesleyan Athletics

The Wesleyan men’s crew team came into this year confident after placing second in the IRA National Division III Championship Regatta last spring. The team had high expectations for itself, along with the power to meet those goals.

“Last spring we did pretty well, so I think in the fall, we’re gonna keep that train going,” Pierce Buckner-Wolfson ’26 said. “We only have three races in the fall, and those are important. But we just wanted to go out there and put our best foot forward and see what happened. And I think we had a pretty successful fall season, but the goal of the fall season is to build. And so that’s what we got from the [races].”

The fall season produced positive results, as the Cardinals placed third in the Riverfront and Head of the Charles Regattas and outright won the Head of the Fish Regatta, capping off a successful campaign and giving the team momentum going into their winter training season.

Over the winter, the Cards looked to build off their success and keep getting better into the spring season.

“We have this phrase we like to toss around on WesCrew: Iron sharpens iron,” Max Ewing ’24 said. “Something I really love about the team is that we all like to compete and push each other. And so everyone’s going out to try and improve themselves, and the guy ahead of them and the guy behind.”

On Saturday, March 30, Wesleyan began their spring season with a varsity eight (V8) boat consisting of Buckner-Wolfson, Nelson Bellows ’26, Emmett Nunes ’23 MA ’24, Gus Shuman ’27, Paul Kiyonaga ’25, Freddie Bell ’25, Hugo Harington ’25, Brett Beaman ’26, and coxswain Asher Israel ’26. For their first test, they took on the No. 11 Coast Guard Academy in a 2000-meter race on the Thames River in New London, Conn.

“When you have a long winter season, getting back on the water is the greatest thing ever,” Buckner-Wolfson said. “So it’s kind of building up and obviously improving every day, but going into Coast Guard we were like, let’s make this one step along the way. And we’ll do our best job today and then we’ll learn from it and move forward to the next races.”

While there were heavy crosswinds throughout the day, the Cards V8 was unbothered and finished the course with a blistering time of 5:33.2, which was more than 18 seconds better than the Bears’ time of 5:51.9. The 2V8, 3V8, and 4V8 boats were all also successful in their respective races, giving Wes a clean sweep for the day.

“That race every year is always a place where you can see where you’re at, and see your work pay off,” Bellows said. “And I think that result is a reflection of what we were trying to do over the winter. It felt really good to get that kind of confirmation that what we were doing meant something and could contribute to this iterative process of going towards the national championship.”

The Cards were happy about the win, but Max Ewing ’24 also stressed the importance of continuing to improve regardless of the results.

“We have a saying: Performance over results’,” Ewing said. “And so especially early in the season, we really like to keep our heads inside of the boat and examine what we do between our two gunnels that made us go slow or go fast. And that’s really the mindset we like to keep, especially as stakes start to ramp up.”

In the next race, the stakes indeed ramped up as the Cards took on three top-10 opponents in the Class of 2003 Cup. Wesleyan lined up with No. 6 Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), No. 8 Hamilton, and No. 9 Colby on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. The Cardinals found themselves rowing in poor conditions with rough water, but they were able to overcome these and win outright with a time of 5:54.6, beating their closest competitor, WPI, by six seconds. Once again, the other boats were also successful as the 2V8, 3V8, and 4V8 all won their races, with the 2V8 beating WPI by a whopping 13 seconds.

“In every race is this idea of 2000 meters of trust,” Bellows said. “And there’s different stages of the race, and going into each of those stages, trusting the guys in the boat is really, really important. Because when the coxswain calls a move, you believe all the guys are doing that exact same thing. And WPI [was] just another step on the campaign, and it was another opportunity for us to really try to coalesce the group and push together.”

On Saturday, April 13, Wesleyan took on their toughest competition yet, as they faced No. 3 Tufts and No. 5 Bates in a day with two separate 2000m races against the two squads. The V8 put out two more incredible sub-six-minute finishes, first rowing a 5:58.83 time against the Jumbos, who lagged behind by seven seconds, and then taking the water three hours later and rowing a 5:58.74 time, five seconds better than the Bobcats. The dominant showing proved that Wes could really stack up against any team, especially Tufts, who had beaten Wes twice during the fall season.

Even though the competition level was upped, the Cardinals kept their winning routine the same.

“Rowing differs from other sports in that you don’t necessarily game-plan against other teams in the same way you might get in [a sport] like football,” Nunes said. “You are more focused [on] putting together your best race over 2000 meters. And so in that sense, the preparation doesn’t really change much. I think we believe in the speed that we have and the work that we’ve done, and we were really happy to get those results.”

On April 20, the Cards had their most recent race, matching up with No. 4 Williams for a head-to-head matchup with the Little Three title on the line. The matchup was highly anticipated as Williams beat the Cards in the National Championship Regatta last spring, and now they would get a rematch. Heavy crosswinds made for difficult conditions, but the Wesleyan V8 was able to outpace the Ephs with a 6:39.19 time, four seconds better than Williams. With this, Wes secured their 19th Little Three in program history and brought home the Saratoga Oar Trophy that came with it.

“This was personally a very meaningful [race] to me, since we hadn’t won this race since 2019, when I was a freshman,” Nunes said. “And so it was really meaningful to me to have that bookending of my time on Wesleyan crew. But I think I think across the board, it just speaks again, to the preparation that we’ve done, the work we put in over the winter [and] the success these guys had in the fall.”

This Saturday, the Cardinals begin the championship part of their season with the New England Championships in Worcester, Mass., and they have abundant confidence in the team and in what they will be able to do come race day.

“Morale on the team is super high right now,” Ewing said. “I think in all of these results, we’re really seeing the product of a lot of hard work that we did throughout the winter throughout the early spring. Everyone is really psyched to see all the pieces fall into place.”

Correction note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the Wesleyan men’s crew team as No. 4 in the country, when they are in fact No. 1 in the country. This article as updated on May 2, 2024 to reflect this change.

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu.