Crew teams look to build off last year’s successes, strong first-year class

Crew experienced great success last season, with the women’s team ranking number one in Div. III and the men’s team placing second in the New England Championships. This year, the women’s team is optimistic about repeating their record-breaking performances, and the men’s team expects to soar to even greater heights.

Great dividends yield equally great expectations, and the Ephwomen have indeed set the bar high for themselves with their recent success. They have not lost a championship race in two years, and they are almost universally regarded as the fastest Div. III squad in the United States.

The women have lost some valuable members of the squad from last year, including Olympian Biz Smith ’01 and captain Heather Barney ’01. However, five members of this year’s senior class have been part of the varsity-eight since their first years, including Izzy Lowell ’02 and Shoshana Clark ’02, both of whom are two-time All-Americans, and Laura Spero ’02, who was a second-team All-American last year.

More important than any individual, everyone on the squad has been working hard in the off-season and recording faster times than ever in her erg-training. All of those efforts spawn a quiet confidence about the team’s chances for the future.

“Although ‘ergs don’t float,’ the team as a whole has been going faster than ever before,” said Lowell. “We are trying not to place more pressure on ourselves than already exists given our past successes, but there certainly is reason to be optimistic about our upcoming season.”

The men’s team also performed well last season, and a healthy mix of strong upperclassmen and powerful newcomers breeds high hopes for the team’s season.

“We definitely have higher expectations for this year,” said co-captain Noah Coburn ’02. “On the ergs, everybody’s a lot stronger this year. Competition to make the top eight should be pretty fierce.”

The results in this past weekend’s “Mad-Cow” Erg Sprints confirmed the optimism of the men’s team and its combination of experiences. The top finishers were Coburn and Angus Beal ’03, two of the squad’s strongest upperclassmen, and Emil Peinert ’05. Two other first-years, Will Cary ’05 and Mark Foster ’05, are expected to compete for spots in the varsity-eight.

“We definitely have strength coming from both sides,” said Coburn. “We have some strong seniors who will be graduating this year, but we also have some pressure from the bottom.”

The women’s team also performed well in the sprints, with Clark, Lowell and Liz Mygatt ’03, who should be a major contributor in the coming season, coming in as the top three finishers.

The novice squads for both the men and the women, though they play second fiddle to the varsity boats, also look forward to the coming season.

All the members of these boats have been working hard during the off-season, and they are eager to bring their work to fruition.

“The whole team has made huge individual contributions during Winter Study,” said rising novice crewman Stephen Kelleher ’05. “We’re excited about coming together as a team on the water during Spring Break.”

“I’m really excited for the spring season,” said novice crewwoman Leisa Rothlisberger ’05. “As novices, we still have a lot to learn about rowing. With a winter of intense training behind us, I’m sure great things are going to happen on the water.”

All the teams will have their first chance on the water next week as they travel to South Carolina over spring break to scrimmage against Div. I opponents, including the University of South Carolina, the University of North Carolina and George Mason University.

After those contests, the teams will have a couple of weeks of normal races before the Little Three Championship at Williams’ home course on Lake Onota, on April 20.

Williams won the Little Three championship for both men and women last year, and while Amherst is rarley a factor in any races, competition from Wesleyan should be tough.

At the end of the season, the teams travel to the New England Championships on May 4, and provided they place highly enough there, to the AVAYA Intercollegiate Rowing Championship on May 12. At last year’s AVAYA, the men finished a disappointing fourth in their qualifying heat, and they hope to improve on that showing.

After that national competition, the men’s and women’s teams part company. The women, provided they again dominate the AVAYA, should travel to the Women’s Div. III NCAA championship on June 1-2 where they expect to be major contenders for a national title. The men, meanwhile, will continue to train for the Henley Royal Regatta, a prestigious week of racing in England at the beginning of July.

Although the future looks bright, both teams are currently focused more on the immediate task of bringing their squads together on the water.

“Most important to us at this point, particularly heading into spring break, will be to bring our varying degrees of experience together in the boat,” commented men’s co-captain Daniel Werber-Sanborn ’02. “Our numbers and results during winter training have shown that we are the most physically fit team in years, and the challenge is to convert that into results on the water.

“The difficulty in the spring is always to take the focus off the individual which had been the focus through the winter, and put it on the team and boat unity.”

“We haven’t taken any strokes yet this spring and we have no idea what other teams have been doing during the winter, so it is impossible to say for sure what the season will bring,” says Lowell. “But I do know that every woman on this team has demonstrated her ability, time and time again, to lay it all on the line and go when it counts.”

If the squads can accomplish those goals, crew should enjoy another year of success.