NCAA Champs return for women’s crew

A group of women surrounded eight ergometers yelling and cheering for their teammates on their last 2000-meter pieces last Saturday, marking the imminent arrival of the spring racing season for women’s crew. The team is now in the process of preparing for its annual spring training trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., which will mark the first time the Ephs get back on the water since November. After winning the national championship for the past two years, the women are looking to become the first women’s crew team to win three consecutive NCAA Div. III titles.

Returning 2007 All-American rowers Emily Cheston ’08 and Louisa Berky ’08 help comprise a strong senior class prepared to lead the team to big wins this season. Williams only graduated one senior, and returns 19 of the 20 rowers who competed in the NCAA championship last spring. The squad has also benefited from a group of promising underclassmen.
“We’ve been working hard just about every day since going off the water in November, and it’ll be great to get in a boat and go fast,” co-captain Abby Weir ’08 said. “After so many days sitting inside looking at a mirror, I can’t wait to just get out there and race.”

Women’s crew faced a slew of challenges in the fall, including having no experienced coxswains, as last season’s varsity coxswains were abroad. The women also had to cope with logistical problems, having the largest squad in the team’s history.

“The whole team really came together as a group to be flexible and work through some unique situations, like having rowers take it upon themselves to learn to cox, or figuring out how to deal with our biggest squad ever,” Weir said.

Despite the challenges the team faced in the fall, the women had victories at the Head of the Genesee and Head of the Fish and the first varsity boat placed third at Head of the Charles.

With the spring season ahead of them, the women are looking to repeat victories from last year. Last year, the women became the first NCAA Div. III women’s team to win three national championships, winning in 2002, 2006 and 2007. Another championship this year would make Williams the only women’s crew team to win three consecutive NCAA Div. III titles.

Last season, the team won under Interim Coach Pat Tynan, while Head Coach Justin Moore was away on sabbatical with the Canadian National Rowing Team. But this year Moore is back and ready for an exciting season.

He is joined this spring by new Assistant Coach Mary Shofner, who is on leave from her assistant coaching position at Stanford. Shofner has coached at the University of Central Florida, her alma mater, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Wisconsin. While at Wisconsin as the varsity lightweight coach, she led her crews to three consecutive national championships.

The team begins racing immediately after its trip, starting with the Murphy Cup on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia on the drive back up from South Carolina.