c/o Wesleyan Athletics

c/o Wesleyan Athletics

Last season, the Wesleyan women’s crew team finished strong, placing second in the NCAA Rowing Championships—the best finish in program history. 

Coming into the fall, the Cardinals looked to build on recent success, beginning with the Riverfront Regatta on Oct. 1, where they placed sixth out of 25 teams. They followed that up with a fifth-place finish out of 35 teams at the Head of the Charles on Oct. 22. They then had their final regatta of the season with the Head of the Fish on Oct. 28, where they placed second out of 19 teams.

Shayna McCarthy ’24 spoke about what the fall season did for the team.

“As each race went along, it got better and better,” McCarthy said. “And by the end of the season, we finished second in that last race, and it was against some DI teams, too. It was really awesome. So coming out of that, I think it’s been really nice to build on that into the spring. You keep the momentum going.”

The high finish provided them with the fuel they needed to stay focused through a long off-season before they transitioned to spring. 

“It’s definitely a mental game to show up to training every day,” Anna Merrifield ’24 said. “It’s tough because we’re not on the water or anything. We’re just erging and lifting and stuff. We’ve talked a lot about being able to remember the why of the training and our goals going into the spring.”

The spring season kicked off on Mar. 30 with a 2000-meter race against No. 11 Coast Guard Academy in the Thames River, and after five full months off from competition, the Cards were ready to go.

“We were all really excited to actually get to go out and race out on the water,” McCarthy said. “The weather was really bad, but I think being on the Connecticut [River] has kind of prepared us for racing in bad conditions.”

Despite the less-than-ideal weather, the Cards swept all three races, with the V8 boat cruising to a time of 6:37.5, a full 23 seconds better than the Bears. The 2V8 and 3V8 also secured large victories in their respective races, with the 2V8 outpacing the Bears by a full 41 seconds. Merrifield shared what led the team to such a successful race.

“We were up ahead the whole race, but instead of just sitting ahead, we kept working and just saw how fast we could go,” Merrifield said. “So I think we did a good job of staying locked in and doing the best we could in the conditions. And it worked out.”

Next up was the Jennifer McLaughlin Cup, a five-team race in Worcester, MA, which pitted the Cards against No. 10 Worcester Polytechnic Institute, No. 9 Hamilton, No. 6 Smith College, and No. 12 Clark University. The Cards faced bad conditions once again, but were unbothered, and finished the two-kilometer course with a time of 6:33.07, outpacing all four other V8 boats to take home the cup victory. The 2V8 also picked up a victory to cap off a successful day on Lake Quinsigamond.

“That felt like our first real race, because we had multiple lanes, and so it definitely was a little bit more pressure,” Merrifield said. “But I think we do a really good job of staying really internal. And again, just seeing how fast we can go without worrying about what other people do.”

On April 13, the Cards had their toughest competition yet, taking on No. 2 Tufts, No. 4 Bates, and No. 5 Wellesley College on the Malden River. The race was divided into two heats, which first pitted the Cards against Wellesley in a head-to-head matchup. The Red and Black rowed to a time of 6:45.52, beating the Blue by seven seconds to advance to the final heat. In this race, Tufts came out victorious, completing the course five seconds faster than the Cards. While Wes would have liked to get the win outright, they were not discouraged by the loss.

“I think we were obviously disappointed to lose to Tufts,” Merrifield said. “But again, it was like a mindset of taking the loss not as, ‘Oh, they’re better than us’, but as, ‘What can we learn from it and how can we beat them in the future?’”

The next weekend, the Cardinals looked to bounce back as they took on Williams in Saratoga Springs, New York. Once again, the Red and Black faced bleak weather, with strong headwinds forcing them to wait on the water for over 90 minutes before their race could begin. Fortunately, it was worth the wait for the Cards, who braved the treacherous conditions to beat the Ephs by 2.52 seconds. With the victory, the Red and Black clinched their first Little Three title since 2021 and their 11th in program history. 

Merrifield applauded the Cardinals’ grit in the face of difficult racing circumstances.

“We got some horrible weather, and everyone was shivering by the time the race started,” Merrifield said. “But I think it was an advantage for us, because I was confident that no one in the boat gave up even for a second. And that was definitely a closer race, but I think we just have so much grit, and we were just able to pull ahead, which was really exciting.”

This Saturday, the Cards will travel to Lake Quinsigamond to compete in the New England Championships. The next weekend, they will be back for the National Invitational Rowing Championship, where they will compete to earn a qualifying spot for the NCAA Division III Championship. These races will pit the Cards against the best crew teams in the country, but they are confident that they can match up with anyone.

“The team has been doing better and better since I’ve gotten here,” McCarthy said. “And it’s really exciting to watch and be part of. So I’m excited for what’s to come in the next couple of weekends.”

Erin Byerly can be reached at ebyerly@wesleyan.edu

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu