Rowing teams begin training for eight-race spring season

By Jane Bary ’19

The men’s and women’s rowing teams appear to be well-positioned for success this season, though they’ve taken different routes to get to where they are now, about a month away from their first races of the season. While the men’s side returns all of the rowers from last season’s top eight boat, the women’s team graduated a lot of key rowers from the crew that placed fourth in the nation last spring during nationals, and is banking on its young rowers stepping up.

Coach Robert Weber is pleased with what he’s seen from both teams so far in initial practices. While the Continentals haven’t been able to hit the water yet and likely won’t until their spring-break trip next month, they’ve shown promise in indoor workouts on erg machines. Both squads head to Tennessee for a training trip over Spring Break and will wrap up the break with a race in New Jersey on the way back to Hamilton.

Rowing teams usually send a number of boats to competitions, including varsity eight boats (made up of eight rowers and a coxswain who helps steer), a varsity four boat and a novice eight boat (made up of rowers who haven’t competed in college rowing before). 

The teams come off a short fall campaign in which the men looked competitive despite missing a few juniors who were abroad. In their final meet at the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, the men’s championship four took ninth place out of 47 boats.  Returning members of the 2014-2015 women’s team took on bigger roles in the fall, and novice rowers also contributed early on. The highlight of their fall season was at the opening race, the Head of the Genesee in Rochester, where the women’s open four finished second out of 14 boats.

“My focus now is having the novices develop confidence, develop the ability to train and develop the ability to race hard,” Weber said. His goals haven’t changed despite losing a lot of experience on the women’s side, as he’s still aiming to see consistent improvement from his rowers. The women could contend for the state and conference championships this spring, while the men could medal in the state meet and place in the top ten nationally. 

“We’re setting some pretty challenging goals for this spring including medaling at states and ECACs,” said Keara Lynn ’16, referring to the New York State Championship meet and the big regional race at the end of April featuring other schools from the Northeast. She added that the team is also aiming to earn a bid to Nationals again this year.

Though the women’s team is relatively young, Lynn, Nina Byers ’16 and Heather Piekarz ’16 bring experience and leadership to the squad. They’re hoping to cap off their college careers with another successful season for the Blue. “I don’t think I’m ever going to be ready to leave this team or this sport, but it’s going to happen soon,” Lynn said. “I’m looking to ramp up my training this spring and push myself to get a lot faster. Mostly, I’m excited to get back in the boat and start racing.”

The men’s side doesn’t lack experience, and could have one of the best seasons in recent memory. “We’ve got the fastest group of rowers we’ve had in years,” Alec Melone ’16 said. The team lifts twice a week, uses the rowing machines six days a week and also looks forward to finally hitting the water. The squad mainly focuses on 2,000-meter races during the season, but team members are working on building their cardio in the offseason to make traveling that distance easier.

“The more time you spend on the water rowing, the better you get at it,” Melone explained. “Having that group of guys who have rowed together for a season before and can do the same thing this coming season means they’ll be that much more in sync.” 

Following the spring break trip, both squads have a busy April, with races against Union, Rochester Institute of Technology, Ithaca and other nearby squads. Melone considers Union, Ithaca, Marist and Colgate to be among Hamilton’s biggest rivals. 

Many of the top rowing schools are concentrated in the northeast, so Hamilton arguably faces deeper competition in big regional meets than it might face if the teams make it to nationals. But the women’s team showed last year through its strong national finish that it’s possible for Hamilton to compete with the best. Both teams this year have the potential to carry on that tradition.

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