Bolstered staff leads to huge strides for growing rowing

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Freshman Julia Blass rows down the Hudson in the women’s three-way meet. The Lady Brewers Varsity finished in second place behind Skidmore by a slim margin of 10 seconds. Photo courtesy of Vassar Athletics

This past weekend both the men’s and women’s rowing teams for Vassar trav­eled to the University of Albany to compete in a three-way meet against the hosting Great Danes, as well as the Thoroughbreds and Lady Thoroughbreds of Skidmore College. In their first competitive action since racing against Bowdoin College, Lawrence University and St. Thomas University on Lake Marion in Sum­merton, SC over spring break, both the men’s and women’s Brewer rowers–both varsity and novice–acquitted themselves quite well on the Albany waters.

In their first races of the Spring Season, the Vassar Rowing Teams posted strong times against the Great Dane boats. The Lady Brewers Varsity 8+ was steady, finishing in second place behind the winning Lady Thoroughbreds of Skidmore by a margin of just 10 seconds, with a time of 7:43.10. This was a marked improvement since the last time the two 8+ teams faced off, when Skidmore pulled away from Vassar at the Head of the Fish Meet and finished with a time over a minute fast­er than that of the Brewers. VC’s second Women’s 8+ team came in third with a time of 8:13.39. In 4+ Varsity team competition, the Vassar women came up with another second place finish to Skid­more, finishing with a time of 8:43.12. They were behind the Thoroughbred contingent by 21 sec­onds. In an open water contest, the Brewer Nov­ice 8+ women notched a comfortable win over the University at Albany women, pulling away to fin­ish in 8:06.81, a full 45 seconds ahead of the Great Danes.

The Brewer men gave an equally strong perfor­mance on the waters of the Hudson throughout the course of the weekend’s races. Vassar Men’s Rowing took the top spot in the novice 8+ com­petition with a time of 7:17.13, finishing just ahead of the Great Dane 8+ rowers, who went under the wire after 7:23.42. Vassar’s varsity 4+ group nearly picked up another win as well: the Thoroughbred Men’s 8+ boat completed the 2000-meter course in 8:03.40. This was good for a competitive win over Vassar, whose men finished with a time of 8:09.32. Vassar’s rowers did not fare quite as well in the men’s varsity 8+, where Skidmore came away with the win in 6:30.02, with Albany taking second place with a 6:49.97 and the Brewer boat registering a 7:11.60 mark.

Reflecting on the team’s performance at Al­bany over the weekend, head coach for both the men’s and women’s teams Shawn Turner was pleased with his rowers’ performance. “At Albany all of the boats showed marked improvement in both speed and execution. The team is beginning to embrace the idea of challenging themselves by racing tough competition while keeping the ul­timate measure of success internal. I am excited to see what the next few weeks bring,” he said in relation not just to the weekend’s meet at Albany, but also in relation to his expectations and goals for the team as the spring season progresses. The weekend’s meet surely produced some mixed feelings for Turner, as it gave him the chance to return to his alma mater (Albany).

Turner saw the weekend not just as an oppor­tunity for his rowers to compete, but also as a means to prepare for what lies ahead. “Most of the team was able to race twice, which provided great experience for our crews given the young nature of the team. It also replicates the heat and final format of our championship events,” said Turner, who joined the Vassar staff in Summer 2015.

The remainder of the spring season will also provide the home stretch for the senior members of two predominantly young and inexperienced teams. On the women’s side, senior captains Maya Grunfeld and Elena Riecke, along with fel­low seniors Cady Cirbes and Cristina Headrick, will look to lead their underclassmen teammates to a strong last month of competition and close out their athletic careers at Vassar in good form in their upcoming meets and regattas. For the men’s contingent, the lone senior rower is Clay Wash. “We have a small senior class of…athletes [who] have seen a lot of change during their time rowing at Vassar. Their leadership and efforts have been immeasurable as Vassar Rowing looks to get a lit­tle bit faster every day,” Coach turner said.

Turner’s coaching staff was filled out over this past winter with the hiring of Assistant Marice Love, a master rower who has worked with row­ing teams in the Poughkeepsie area for more than a decade. Love also serves as the Executive Di­rector and President of Hudson Valley Rowing League, Inc.

Another key addition is Assistant Coach Kath­erine Coffin, who rowed at the collegiate level for Division I University at Buffalo for four years, earning her degree in geology and environmen­tal geoscience last year. The coaching staff, along with the seniors and captains, are making every effort to fine tune and focus on their training and preparation for upcoming events. “[P]ractice time on the Hudson is now as precious as ever. With the recent addition of a third coach’s launch, [we] can expect more individualized feedback out on the water. Practices will be geared towards race day with added emphasis on race starts and sprints,” assured junior men’s captain Andrew Wang.

The Brewers hope to build on their successful season in their busy slate of upcoming match­ups. Vassar Rowing will take a short trip to New Rochelle to compete in the Spring Metropolitan Championships this coming Saturday. The Brew­ers waste no time in returning to competitive action, as they will also take to the water this coming Sunday here in Poughkeepsie, with the men’s and women’s sides facing off against Marist College and West Point, while the men’s team will additionally compete against Boston College for the President’s Cup.

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