This weekend’s New England Rowing Championships provided a final proving ground for women’s crew. Williams’ women came home with 24 medals, two trophies and nine New England champions. All the eights earned trips to the Grand Finals and, once there, each medaled. This performance was acknowledged when the team was awarded the overall women’s points trophy, an unprecedented win for Williams.
The novice race is always a wild card event, as each crew is new every year. The Williams novices were prepared to take the field by storm.
The day started off well, as Williams won its heat, flying across the line with open water between itself and UNH, a traditional powerhouse. Going into the Grand Final, however, Williams faced some tough competition.
Off the start, Williams held even with both the Trinity and Wesleyan eights. As the boats stratified, Trinity pulled out ahead, leaving Wesleyan and Williams to fight for second and third places. Williams gained a substantial lead over its rivals heading into the last stretch of the race. Just as the boats were closing in for the sprints, however, Bates came out from behind and began walking on Williams. Bates crossed the line 1.2 seconds ahead of Williams, stealing the second place finish. Wesleyan placed fourth. Although there was some obvious disappointment in losing the second position to Bates, Williams’ bronze medals commemorate a great race for the team.
The novice finish duplicates the best results from a novice crew in the history of the program. Also, the novices’ Finals’ time was 3.1 seconds faster than their time from the morning’s heat.
Emma Herries ’03 commented, “It was a tough race, and the first race we had been in where we did not take a commanding lead by the middle 1000 meters. I think the best part about it was that we all had complete faith in each other and knew that no matter what the outcome was, each of us was putting all of our power into every stroke.”
The second varsity had an equally exhilarating race. After missing second place by less than half a second in its heat, the team took to the line in the Grand Final. Williams had a powerful start and led the pack for the first 600 meters. Colby then moved out in front and remained solidly in the lead. Williams and Smith battled down the rest of the course for second, with Smith edging out Williams by only 0.7 seconds. An additional bonus to the third place finish was that Williams defeated Wesleyan, avenging an earlier loss.
After the JV and novice finals, only the varsity eight’s race remained. The varsity women had a solid showing in their heat, walking through the University of the Connecticut in the last 500 meters for a first place finish. New Hampshire, last year’s champions, came in third, failing to qualify, leaving the door open for a new champion. The Grand Final of the women’s varsity was intense even before the race began.
From the start of the Grand Final, the crews were even across the board. Williams, UConn, Wesleyan and Holy Cross all vied for the lead, with UConn just barely putting its bow ball in front. As the race thinned to a three-boat race between UConn, Wesleyan and Williams for first, none of the crews made a commanding move to push ahead. Having hit the 1000-meter mark, Williams took control of the race. The varsity women upped the power and moved out decisively, leaving the rest of the field in their wake. Williams executed a strong, collected, swinging row to cross the finish line as the New England champions.
In rowing tradition, they heaved the coxswain into the water after our win. It was the perfect end to an amazing regular season.
No matter what setbacks the season threw our way, the women responded with a championship attitude. No other group faced more adversity than the second varsity eight, who underwent at least four line-up changes (over the course of the five-week season), a serious bout of the stomach flu, and, at the end of the year, faced nearly a week of practicing with only seven rowers.
The team’s co-captain, Sara Kate May ’00, summed up the adversity the team had faced. “This season has been about pride. Win or lose, Williams always proves itself to be a crew that is worthy of the kind of pride we all have in it.”
Williams looks forward to another exciting regatta next weekend, completing a season more successful than anyone could have envisioned.