Women’s Rowing Takes Sixth
- Phil Ticknor
During the three-day championship on May 26-28 in West Windsor, N.J., the program’s first varsity eight placed third out of four boats in its heat, coming in at 6:47.768. The second varsity eight was fourth in four boats, in its heat in 7:17.913. Both boats then competed in the petite final, with the first varsity eight surging ahead in the final 1000 meters to pass seventh-ranked Pacific Lutheran and win the race at 6:48.582.
The second varsity eight finished just two seconds after RIT, placing the team in sixth with 17 total points.
“They’ve been training since September with the goal of winning a medal at the NCAA,” Head Coach Karin Hughes said. “I think that was a really good goal for us to have; it really raised everyone’s performances, some very dramatically, both on the water and off.”
Although the team didn’t reach that goal this season, they did bounce back and finish strong at the championship.
“Knowing that their goal was no longer attainable, we, as a coaching staff, were really interested to see what they would do Saturday morning. True to form, both boats came out with everything they had. Both boats laid down really good, solid, aggressive races. In the finish, even though we weren’t where we wanted to be placement-wise, both the coaching staff and the athletes felt very, very good about the way they finished off their season and how they represented WC on the national stage at the end,” Hughes said.
Maddie Morrissette,’17, was the program’s first rower to compete in the first varsity eight at four consecutive NCAA Division III Championships. They got there by a lot of hard work, she said.
“Rowing is not fun inherently,” she said. “It’s really repetitive. It’s physically grueling; mentally, it’s very taxing. As a team, we prepared by learning how to trust the process and how to get satisfaction out of working really hard every day. And we got the pay off at NCAA.”
Every year, she said, the program has grown in strength.
“It was really fun to watch people grow as rowers and also as teammates,” she said. “Physically as a rower, I definitely grew stronger and faster. But I think the biggest shift was probably mentally.” She learned how to push herself and her teammates to get further as a program.
“Rowing is such a team sport — it’s individual in the sense that you have to push yourself, but you’re doing it for your team.”
Hughes echoed that sentiment. During the off-season, she said the Shorewomen created their own standard — what time they needed to pull on the rowing machine to even get out onto the water.
“It really raised the intensity level and put them on the same page of where they wanted to be. People made some huge leaps as far as their fitness and things like that,” she said.
Additionally, Hughes said, the team emphasized smaller boats in the fall, focusing on rowing in the single, the doubles, and the pairs. This would “help them learn how to move the boat, but really to have them fighting each other on the water like they’re competing against each other on the rowing machine,” she said. That, in combination with their own determination, helped raise their level of performance.
The performance also appears to extend to the classroom. Morrissette was among the five of the Women’s Rowing team to be named a National Scholar-Athletes by the College Rowing Coaches Association.
To be a National Scholar-Athlete, the student must have rowed in the program’s NCAA Championship-eligible boats in at least 75 percent of spring races. The student also must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 through the fall 2015 semester. Seniors Jackie Creitz and Danielle Huston Hakey and sophomores Emily Booth and Kelin McCloskey were also among those honored.
“It’s nice that our coaches put a big emphasis on our academics,” Morrissette said. “I know I definitely wouldn’t have done as well in school as I did if it hadn’t been for rowing, hadn’t been for the structure that the coaches and having a sport and the time constraints provide. It’s a reflection of academics, but also athletics as a whole.”
Next year, the team has the same goal in mind: winning the first medal for the program at the NCAA Championship in Sarasota.
“We kind of had an end-of-the-season wrap up meeting right after we get the boats put away and they’ve been keeping training journals all year — writing down their workouts and thoughts and charting their progress — and I said, ‘Today, you need to write down what you just did this morning, then you close up that training journal. Tomorrow’s off. Then Monday morning, open up your new training journal and start writing down for next year in Sarasota,’” Hughes said.
Morrissette sees the program surging further ahead as they keep building.
“It’s nothing to scoff at, to be sixth in the nation, but I’m actually more excited for the future of the program. I think that this is kind of a stepping stone. A few years for now, we’re going to look back at sixth place and people are going to laugh at it. That’s the hope.”