In their final full team event of the season, the Vassar rowing teams participated in the New York State Collegiate Championships at Fish Creek in Saratoga Springs on April 30.
“My thoughts going into NY State Championships were simple as they have been all year. I was hoping that we would perform to the best of our abilities and for the most part, I thought we did that,” Head Coach Shawn Turner said, “Every boat reported solid racing and I am satisfied Vassar Rowing is headed in the right direction due to the hard work of the team.”
After a four-season sabbatical, the women’s collegiate varsity 8+ competed in the Championships and finished 11th overall after posting a time of 7:36.30 in the preliminaries. This time pushed the women past tough competitors such as New York University, Geneseo and Oswego. After the preliminaries, the women’s collegiate varsity 8+ raced a 7:37.71 in the petite final, besting Geneseo by one second.
Senior Maya Grunfeld coxed the varsity 8+ boat consisting of freshmen Haley Kardek, Julia Blass, Lauren Osojnak, Setse Bush and Amanda Su, as well as senior Elena Riecke and junior Lianne May.
Meanwhile, the women’s collegiate JV 8+ finished fifth in the first heat, rowing a time of 8:19.08. The women’s 2V8+ later rowed in the women’s collegiate JV 8+ petite final, earning a time of 8:40.30. Sophomore Millie Cunningham coxed the 2V8+ squad that includes fellow sophomores Claire Baker, Zofia Siwicka, Clara Arntdsen, Lynn Zhang, seniors Cristina Headrick and Cady Cirbes, and freshmen Taylor Bak and Catherine Hernandez.
“I think the strongest aspect of our team has been that we’ve been able to improve so much in a year, both in terms of individual and group effort,” Hernandez said.
At the Championships, the men’s team competed in the varsity 4+, the novice 4+ and the open 4+ events. The men’s collegiate varsity 4+ finished fifth in their heat with a time of 7:36.57, surpassing rowers from Oswego State and the University of Rochester.
Junior Andrew Wang and sophomore Sam Chiou were led by sophomore coxswain Janet Ortiz in the varsity 4+ boat. The team’s hard work is visible as they improved upon last year’s time of 75:52.68.
“I think the novice and first-year rowers have put out a strong showing in all our regattas. They are an extremely dedicated group of athletes and bring a great dynamic to our team chemistry and a solid foundation for our future. Progress and adapting have definitely been the strongest aspect of the team this year,” said Chiou. “We came in this year with just a handful of returning rowers and an entirely new coaching staff. We’ve been able to adjust to all these structural changes, which has helped us compete and make huge strides in terms of team chemistry and fitness has definitely been the strongest aspect.”
The Brewers took home fourth place in the men’s collegiate novice 4+ with a time of 8:09.54, besting a crew from NYU but falling just seconds behind a boat from U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Freshman Kirk Testa guided the Vassar boat which included freshmen Devon Wilson and Jackson Christie and sophomore Pat DeYoung.
To round out the day, the men’s open 4+ ended in fifth place with a time of 7:37.93, 12.201 seconds behind Clarkson University. Coxswain Jonathan Snyder fronted the team of senior Clay Wash and freshmen Alex Goff, Vin Brana and Dan Otto.
Christie said, “I’m probably proudest of our team’s determination. No matter the situation, our rowers always give their everything and come off the water after fighting our hardest.”
This year, the men’s squad only had three upperclassmen return to the roster and added six freshmen. Despite being a young team, the men have remained competitive in each event and continue to improve as a cohesive unit.
The women’s side didn’t face losses like the men but saw huge growth with nine freshmen. No matter the makeup, both teams have worked tirelessly in practice and competition.
“The team has been strong in many ways. Three things stand out. The team embraced the concept of accepting change and laid the groundwork for success both this year and in the future,” remarked Coach Turner. “Secondly, the team supported each other both on and off the water in a positive manner. Finally, the team learned to understand the level of work and effort required to be a successful team. All the of these strengths will benefit Vassar Rowing in the future.”
Members of the team share similar sentiments. While many rowers join as complete novices to the sport, rigorous training and the mentorship of more seasoned members help to make up for this initial inexperience. In order to move boats effectively, rowers must develop coordination with each other in the boat, and the entire boat should ideally develop similar levels of technical skills.
“Rowing is really a constant fight to maintain efficient technique while pushing boats with greater power and speed,” explained Baker, “We’ve spent a lot of time working on this balance and particularly building a foundation of good technique so that we can implement our strength most effectively. In my boat, I think that we’ve really made a lot of technical strides this year, and we’re already seeing it positively affect our times.”
The team will next compete at the Dad Vail Regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in the United States, held on Schuylkill River, PA, on May 13 and 14.