Vassar rowing closes fall seasons at Head of the Fish

Junior Millie Cunningham helps the team prepare for its Head of the Fish race. With a strong showing, Vassar rowing has completed a successful fall and will resume competition in Spring 2017. Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton
Junior Millie Cunningham helps the team prepare for its Head of the Fish race. With a strong showing, Vassar rowing has completed a successful fall and will resume competition in Spring 2017.  Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton
Junior Millie Cunningham helps the team prepare for its Head of the Fish race. With a strong showing, Vassar rowing has completed a successful fall and will resume competition in Spring 2017. Courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

The Vassar College men’s and women’s rowing teams finished up their fall seasons on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Head of the Fish race in Saratoga Springs, NY. The rowing team participated in the second of two fall meets and left feeling confident about their potential for the spring season.

Coach Shawn Turner, who has returned for his second year as head coach of both teams, is pleased with the way the teams performed at both the Head of the Housatonic and the Head of the Fish. Even in the mere three weeks between the two races, Turner feels that the team was able to improve and performed better the second time around.

The teams’ improvements are evident as they compare their performances to varying competition. Turner noted, “Racing primarily against DI and DIII varsity teams, we have narrowed the gap to our competition.”

Although they had a successful fall season, Turner believes the squads still have room for improvement. “The team needs to continue to improve to achieve our internal goals,” he mentioned. This will be the driving force behind their workouts in the off-season so they can be as strong as possible during the spring.

As the teams transition into their off-seasons, they will begin focusing on strength training. “During the winter, the team will reduce practice to three days [per week] and focus on gaining fitness on the rowing machines and in the weight room,” Coach Turner stated. The team hopes this extra training will prepare them for their spring seasons.

The Head of the Fish proved to be a great end of the fall season and Coach Turner has high expectations for how the spring season should shape up.

Junior Millie Cunningham also shares positive reflections on the team’s performance on Saturday. Although the conditions were not necessarily favorable, the Brewers did not let a little wind and rain stop them. Cunningham noted, “The team had a solid day on Saturday, with all four varsity boats taking on challenging conditions to finish close to the middle of the pack.”

Cunningham pointed out the novice rowers in particular for helping out the team at the race. “In terms of people who stepped up, I think the novice did a great job handling their first race in tough conditions,” she commented.

As far as what improvements have been made over the past few weeks, Cunningham believes that the women’s boats were able to step up their performance in the time between the Head of the Housatonic and the Head of the Fish. “I think we definitely improved between Housatonic and Fish; it felt like we found a really good rhythm and we passed a few boats in each race, which is a great feeling,” she mentioned.

In the off-season, there is a large focus on making sure the team improves their strength. Cunningham indicated that there is a strong emphasis on getting stronger and faster as they transition from longer races into shorter sprints in the spring.

Cunningham also wants to ensure that the team is in the best possible shape for when the season starts up again in March. She remarked, “Winter training is also a great time to let our bodies rest and recover between seasons so we can be in good shape for the spring.”

On the men’s team, senior Lucas Kautz is proud of the improvements that the team made in their second race of the fall season. “Being the last head race of the season, I couldn’t be happier with the results and overall spirit of the team. Every boat had a fantastic row and the results show just how far we have come from last year,” Kautz pointed out. “Although we have more work to do, the team as a whole has made amazing strides and this race was the proof we needed.”

Kautz applauded the ability of the team to perform at such a high level, even though the conditions for the Head of the Fish were different than they were at the Head of the Housatonic. As he mentioned, “Regattas, specifically Head of the Fish, are stressful, fast-paced and often unorganized due to the large amount of competitors.”

However, even with nerves running high, the team made sure that they all worked as a cohesive unit to ensure that everything was running smoothly. Kautz was elated with how the team worked hard to both prepare for the race and keep teammates warm and dry during the difficult conditions.

In terms of team improvement, Kautz explained, “We are all very happy with the results from Head of the Fish. Even in the harsh conditions, everyone was able to find their rhythm and finish well within our expectations.”

Like Coach Turner, however, Kautz acknowledges that the team can make some improvements to reach its greatest potential. This desire to continue getting better is evident in the way the team was able to improve their race in just a mere three weeks after the Head of the Housatonic. “In the men’s V8, we felt that we had made huge improvements in set and power as compared to our last race. That being said, it was the perfect race to end our fall season on,” Kautz declared.

In regards to preparation for the spring, Kautz is excited to see how the team responds to the increase in intensity of practices over the winter. Kautz stated, “This year we hope to increase the number of meters from 10-15 thousand to 15- 20 thousand per practice. Although this is a step up from last year, we believe that every member will be able to achieve this goal.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams are excited to begin the off-season with high hopes and grand expectations for the spring. Explaining the teams’ mentalities, Coach Turner explained, “We’re just looking to go a little faster every day.”

With Turner at the reins and prominent upperclassmen leadership from coxswains and rowers such as Cunningham and Kautz, the rowing teams are optimistic about resuming their seasons in the spring. After an off-season of high intensity, the Vassar rowing squads will get back in the water in March of 2017.

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