Teams from across the country will gather on the Potomac River for the 18th annual GW Invitational Crew Classic on Saturday.
The event, hosted by the Colonials, is the largest collegiate rowing competition in the D.C. area. Held during the 2005 National Cherry Blossom Festival, the GW Invitational attracts many spectators out enjoying the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation’s capital.
The GW Invitational Crew Classic starts with preliminary heats at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The finals are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m., followed by the medal ceremony at 4 p.m.
“We love racing on the Potomac because it is our home course,” men’s head coach Matt Boyle said. “Training there every day gives us a chance to feel very comfortable in tight racing conditions. We get several thousand fans in Washington Harbor for the GW Invitational, which creates an unbelievable environment for racing. It is an amazing boost to hear all of those people cheering you on and it really motivates the team.”
“We are hoping for good weather, which will help draw a big hometown crowd,” added women’s coach Helen Betancourt.
Navy comes in as the three-time defending champions, having captured the Gilbert H. Hood Jr. Trophy at the 2004 event with 65 total points. The Midshipmen face some stiff competition, including last year’s runners-up, St. Joseph’s. The Hawks, a team that finished with 45 points at the previous Invitational, will be joined by Georgetown, Temple, Tennessee (the 2004 varsity eight winner), GW and several others.
Though young, both Colonials squads are looking to make a splash at the event by feeding off the enthusiasm provided by their fans.
“I think it’s going to be exciting,” freshman Matt Brady said. “We’re a young crew team, and we have three freshmen in a boat, so I think it’ll be good to have our fans with us. We expect to make it to the grand final this weekend. With a young crew, we’d be happy to medal.”
“Come race time, ideally (your) mind, eyes, everything should be completely centered in your own boat,” sophomore Elizabeth Gordon said. “But it definitely pumps me up to see people in attendance.”
The women’s team is coming off of losses to Boston University and Navy and a victory against Georgetown at this past weekend’s Playfair Cup. The Occoquan Sprints, scheduled to take place last Sunday for the men’s team, were canceled due to high winds.
“The team is building speed and confidence right now and we expect to perform at a very high level this weekend,” Boyle said.