While most of the Vassar College student population is setting their alarms in the morning for 9, 10 or 11 o’clock, the members of the men’s and women’s rowing team are setting theirs for five. Monday through Friday, the rowing team starts making their way over to Main at 5:25 a.m. in preparation for a chilly 6 a.m. practice on the Hudson River. The dedication of each member of the team, from novice to varsity, helps the rowing team prepare for what is shaping up to be another successful season.
Senior Jake Brekelbaum is one of three seniors on the Vassar men’s rowing team this year. He attributes much of the team’s success thus far to how much work everyone put in during the offseason. “Over the summer, the two other senior guys and I kept tabs on our teammates’ workouts and tried to encourage people to stay in shape over the summer. As a result, every member of our team came back faster than they were at the end of last season. This leadership is incredibly important in holding everyone accountable for making sure that everyone comes back to school in the best condition possible and that everyone is ready to go once practices begin,” Brekelbaum noted.
Staying on top of the team over the summer is already proving beneficial, especially after losing some senior spots from last year. However, Brekelbaum is proud of the way newcomers have shown their skills. He mentioned that freshman Travis Walker has already had an immediate impact on the team. Brekelbaum appreciates how Walker has “stayed positive as we put him in the difficult spot of learning how to row on the fly. He’s improving by the day and we are all certain the boat will be ready for Saturday.”
Another key member to the team is senior captain Lucas Kautz. Kautz was out last spring season with a shoulder injury but “has picked up right where he left off last fall, holding down a 7 seat in the boat. As one of the fastest guys on the team, he is key to our success,” Brekelbaum claimed. Brekelbaum is not the only one on the team that points Kautz out as an important member of the team. Freshman Aidan Glaser-Schoff explains how Kautz “extends a hand to all of the rowers who ask for help as well as helping out the team when no one asks.” Katuz is also constantly checking in on the novice rowers and answering any questions that they may have, as well as making “sure that they are healthy and that they are enduring the morning practice schedule.”
The novice rowing team is also playing a major role in helping the varsity team get ready. Although the novice team does not have a race until the end of October, Glaser-Schoff explained how they are “still working with varsity to prepare for the racing season.” The team members are “expected to physically exert ourselves as much as on race day,” which is crucial in making sure the team is getting as much out of practice as possible.
As far as what the team is focusing on for the season, Brekelbaum pointed out that everyone is “largely focused on the long-term as a team, but as our times continue to drop to competitive levels, we have potential for immediate success. The effort has been there so far this season, and as a senior, I hope that translates to success on race day.”
Junior Millie Cunningham has been a member of the Vassar women’s rowing team since her freshman year. Cunningham credits the way the team has looked so far to how hard she and other upperclassmen on the team are working “to maintain our team’s sense of community and to continue to promote a culture of hard work and mutual support both on and off the water.”
Cunningham also noted how well all the seniors have filled the roles of those who graduated last year. “All four of our current seniors (Lianne May, Andrew Wang, Lucas Kautz and Jake Brekelbaum) have done a really great job filling those leadership roles, building on their four years of experience with Vassar Rowing and creating what I hope is a really welcoming environment for our freshmen/novice rowers,” Cunningham commented.
Back for his second year, Head Coach Shawn Turner has high hopes for the team. He strives to help the team “get a little bit faster every day.” He feels that the team has already improved and is going to be much more competitive this fall. He also noted that the team has “improved from last fall, but much remains to be seen.”
In terms of people who have really stood out, Turner mentions that the team is driven by a group of fervent leaders on the men’s and women’s side. Specifically, junior rower Zofia Siwicka for the women and junior coxswains Janet Ortiz and Jonathan Snyder, along with sophomore coxswain Kirk Testa for the men.
According to Turner, Siwicka “has brought huge effort and enthusiasm every day. Her enthusiasm is infectious and has in my mind been a large part of the team’s willingness to work hard every day.” As far as the men’s team goes, Ortiz, Snyder and Testa “have been immensely valuable and willing to change roles every day as needed,” Turner stated.
The team is getting ready for its upcoming races by “rowing as many meters as possible every day focusing on both technique and fitness,” said Turner. The team rows close to seven miles per day and Turner ascribes the rowing performance of the members of the team to how physically fit each one of them is. “Nearly every member of the team set a personal best during our recently concluded physical assessments,” Turner reported.
Turner believes that this will be a very successful season. He is looking forward to “both the men and women executing strong races individually while supporting each other as Vassar Rowing competes with some of the top teams in the country.”
A team driven by the leadership of upperclassmen is bound to do great things and it seems that both rowing teams should be prepared for another victorious season.
The Varsity rowing team participates in two races in the fall. The first is Head of the Housatonic, next Saturday, Oct. 8 followed by the Head of the Fish on Oct. 29.