Last Saturday, women’s crew took home the Donahue Cup for the 13th straight year with all boats winning their races for the second time this season. Despite racing into a direct headwind, the women felt at home in familiar conditions on a course at Lake Quinsigamond in Worchester, Mass., where they will row twice more this spring.
The 1v boat lined up first against host WPI, Conn. College, Rochester and Simmons. Taking advantage of a quick start to move immediately to the lead, the women then attempted to distance themselves from WPI. The Ephs held open water on the field by 600 meters and continued to move throughout the middle 1000 meters. Never complacent, the women kept their blades down and sprinted to a 7:25.16 finish, almost 14 seconds ahead of second-place WPI. Rochester, Simmons and Conn. College rounded out the field and placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
The 2v posted a similarly resounding victory over competitors from the same four schools. Leaping to the front of the pack from the start, the boat channeled its scrappy energy to claim open water on the field by 350 meters. All athletes stayed committed to their race plan and cruised across the finish line in 7:34.09, well ahead of WPI (7:46.25), Conn. College (8:14.06), Rochester (8:15.47) and Simmons (8:31.32).
The 3v had an exciting beginning to its morning with a delayed start due to boat misalignment. Fortunately, the Ephs steered clear of most of the scramble and quickly separated themselves from the chaos during their start sequence. In the far lane, WPI challenged the Ephs in the first 500 meters, but the women took a move and held open water for the remainder of the course. The last 500 meters offered a little more shelter and helped the women execute a solid sprint, stopping the clock at 8:03.81. WPI finished second in 8:19.78, followed by Simmons in 9:14.79 and Conn. College in 9:32.87.
Wrapping up the morning, the 4v posted the largest winning margin of all boats. After a false start by sole competitor WPI, the boats realigned, and Williams took the lead in the second attempt. WPI maintained contact for the first 1000 meters, at which point the women took a move and continued to step away for the rest of the race. Williams won in 8:26.80 with WPI nearly 25 seconds behind in 8:51.28.
“Each boat executed a race that allowed them to get a lead early and extend through the body of the piece while working on technical elements of the stroke and rhythm,” Head Coach Kate Maloney said. “It was a good chance to race on a buoyed course, where we will be back in three weeks.”
Co-captain Gabrielle Markel ’17 echoed those sentiments. “We are excited to have a strong start to our season and in particular about the depth on our team right now,” she said. “Everyone performed well on Saturday, but it was the 4v that had the biggest margin, which was really cool to see. While it is super exciting, I’m not surprised as to the team wide performance, simply because everyone has been putting in the work all winter. It is awesome to start to see it payoff and where we can take it through the championship season.”
The women will rely on a large senior class led by Markel and co-captain Molly Burroughs ’17 as well as Sarah Cooperman ’17, Becca Dunwoody ’17, Gemma Holt ’17, Emory Strawn ’17, Katie Swoap ’17 and Ellie Wachtel ’17. Though the team graduated five rowers last year from the top two boats, several underclassmen and juniors returning from abroad have stepped up.
The women aim to carry their momentum and focus through another week of practice on Lake Onota in preparation for Saturday’s Little Three Regatta. The women will row at Wesleyan, as Amherst historically does not compete.
“This upcoming weekend will be a good test of our ability to race stroke for stroke over the complete distance,” Maloney said. “Wesleyan brings a formidable group and we are looking forward to the challenge.”