In the Little Three Regatta this past Saturday at Williams’ home lake, Lake Onota, the Ephs won every heat of the day.
Both men’s and women’s varsity crew were favored to win their races, but in competitions that mean the world to everyone involved, they knew the other crews would be up for a challenge.
“Every year, the Little Three is tougher for us to win than one would think,” said Justin Moore, head coach of women’s crew. “Every team brings their best with them, especially Wesleyan, they are always tough for us to beat.”
For the women, Williams maintained both its team focus and its number one national ranking against its archrivals in the midst of yet another undefeated season. The women’s first varsity boat dominated its race with a time of 6:23.6, finishing well over two boat lengths ahead of second-place Wesleyan.
“For the first time in my four years, we had relatively good conditions on Lake Onota,” said women’s co-captain Carol Lynn Higgins ’02. “All crews were able to push themselves very hard against good crews from Wesleyan and Amherst.”
In the women’s second varsity heat, the Ephs faced more substantial competition, as the Williams and Wesleyan boats were tied with 500 meters remaining. However, the hard work the women put in throughout the winter came through. Their superior endurance allowed them to make a strong final push and finish in 7:38.7, a crushing 10 seconds ahead of the Wesleyan boat.
The regatta was very well attended, and several crew members commented on how much the fan support motivated them in the waning seconds of the race.
Unfortunately for those interested in competitive rowing, the women’s novice eight race provided little in the way of competition, but much in the way of school honor.
In that heat, Williams finished in 7:43.8, a 13-second thrashing that, despite the humble words of the women involved, an objective spectator would be hard pressed to call a contest.
“Competing against our school rivals was a big incentive to fight for the race,” said novice oarswoman Leisa Rothlisberger ’05. “It was awesome to see every crew do so well; it brought a great sense of school pride. There’s a lot of power in each of the boats, and in yesterday’s races we were able to find it and use it.”
The women also entered two boats in the four person race. In the day’s largest heat, including first-year squads from Williams and Wesleyan and varsity crews from each of the three schools, the Williams women again seized the day. The varsity women won the heat overall, finishing eight seconds ahead of the Wesleyan varsity boat, and the novice women beat the Wesleyan novices by an awesome 15 seconds.
On the men’s side, the Ephs enjoyed similar success against the school’s rivals, as they also won every heat of the day.
The men’s first varsity boat dominated its heat in smooth fashion, finishing in 6:23.6, about a boat length and a half ahead of Wesleyan.
“We hit Weslyan hard in the first 750 meters,” said men’s varsity co-captain Noah Coburn ’02. “They held on to keep it close, fighting hard through the 1,000. . . Great racing all around.”
The men’s second varsity race was the closest of the day, as the men finished their 2000 meters in 6:46.8, less than half a boat length ahead of Wesleyan.
“[They] really had to battle to get their victory,” said Coburn. “But they’ve got a really strong group of guys who were able to hold it together admirably.”
In the varsity four-man race, Williams entered two boats against Amherst, which was desperate for some kind of decent showing and pushed extremely hard from the outset. However, they were no match for the Williams first varsity four of Coburn, Emil Peinart ’05, Daniel Werbol-Sanborn ’02 and Mark Foster ’05. The Williams first boat slowly built a lead against the Amherst boat until the 1500-meter mark, when the Lord Jeffs completely ran out of energy.
Then, the second Williams boat, consisting of Chris Flynn ’04, Luke Hyde ’03, Jordan Rodu ’05 and Steve Scroggins ’04, demonstrated its endurance by passing the Amherst crew for a first place finish.
“By the time they hit the 1,500-meter mark, [Amherst] was visibly exhausted and dropped,” said Coburn. “The Williams second boat was then able to muscle through them easily over the last minutes of the race.”
The Williams men also won the second novice fours, despite relying on a rower who had competed just two races prior. The Ephs finished in a time of 8:09.5, over ten seconds ahead of second place Amherst.
Finally, the men’s novice eight race provided the most excitement of the day when the Wesleyan novice boat rowed out of its lane and crashed with the Williams boat. It is unclear if the Wesleyan coxswain simply made a mistake or if the Wesleyan boat was blown off its course by the almost non-existent winds. Regardless, the Williams novice men remembered what they had been taught and continued to row through the adversity. Motivated by the event, they crushed the Wesleyan crew by over eight seconds with a time of 7:31.
Wesleyan filed a protest, claiming that the race was unfair because the Williams boat had been aided by the collision. However, head judge Dr. Dan Thompson ruled that Wesleyan was the boat worthy of penalty because its crew was the one that had actually ventured out of its lane. Dr. Thompson withheld punishment because Williams had not been hindered by the incident.
Overall, it was a great day of racing for everyone involved as both the crews and the spectators, many of whom were in town for Spring Family Days, enjoyed the victories at the Ephs’ first home regatta of the season.
“We were really excited about the fan support we had this weekend, from parents to alums to current students who always hear about crew but rarely get to see it,” said Higgins. “A number of rowers commented on how great it was to come into the last 500-meters of the race and hear the roar of the crowd and to know that the majority of that roar was for Williams.”
Ephs fans will be able to continue their enthusiasm next weekend, as Bates, Marist, Rochester and the United States Coast Guard Academy (men only) come to Lake Onota to take on the Ephs. This is the final preparation before the crews head to the regional championships.
“Next week, we are at home again with some tough crews,” said Coburn. “A strong showing would be a great way to send ourselves into New Englands.”