Women’s sailing sealed its best finish in program history at the Intercollegiate Sailing Association Sperry Women’s National Championship Friday.
The No. 12 Colonials finished fifth at the Eastern Semifinals to advance to the national championship for the fifth consecutive year. The squad placed fourth in the regatta – the program’s highest finish in its eight-year tenure.
“They’re always hungry for more and I think that sets them apart from other women’s teams,” head coach Billy Martin said before the championship. “In the past, the goal is always to improve and get better, and we’ve done that in every event and they haven’t been satisfied yet.”
The team has consistently placed in the top nine in each Eastern Semifinals regatta, earning an eighth-place finish in 2018, seventh-place finishes in 2015 and 2017 and a fifth-place finish in 2016. The top nine boats at the semifinals advance to the national championship.
Martin said the team’s consistent training throughout the season would help the team succeed at nationals.
“There is no such thing as a high pressure situation or low pressure situation,” Martin said. “It’s just trained or not trained, so our goal is to be as prepared as possible.”
The team competed in the semifinals Tuesday and Wednesday, earning fifth place to punch its ticket to the national championship. The team sat outside the top half of the 18-boat field in its four previous national championships, finishing 13th in 2015 and 2017, 12th in 2018 and 10th in 2016.
With a score of 231 points, the squad bested No. 2 MIT, No. 4 Charleston, No. 5 Boston College, No. 6 Cornell, No. 7 Dartmouth, No. 8 Pennsylvania, No. 9 Hobart and William Smith and No. 11 Boston University.
The team has seen success prior to the national regatta, finishing in the top half in six of its seven competitions in the spring season. The Colonials also placed third in both the fall and spring Mid Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association Women’s Championships.
“What this women’s team in particular has proven is that they’re just resilient,” Martin said. “Both of our qualifiers in the fall and spring came in third, which is a fantastic result, but we didn’t necessarily see it as a great accomplishment or a huge defeat – we just saw it as another step.”
Senior Riley Legault, who earned an honorable mention All-American after nationals, said Martin and assistant coach Catherine Shanahan have prepared the team on and off the water for a successful nationals run. She said the team reviews video of its play to pinpoint strengths and areas of improvement.
Legault and junior Aitana Mendiguren served as the skippers for the Colonials. Legault skippered each A Division race and Mendiguren led the boat for all B Division races.
“Obviously they help us when we’re out there, but we also have a good system where we debrief and reflect on what happens,” Legault said.
Seniors Alexandra Fayer and Marie Line and junior Sarah Noyes split the crewing responsibilities in the A Division, while Noyes and senior Emma Mendenhall crewed in the B Division.
Mendiguren said the team’s tight-knit dynamic and experience throughout the season has prepared them for national competition.
“It’s important to know you can lean on someone and also to take it race by race,” Mendiguren said. “It’s important not to get stressed out, but it’s definitely something we’re used to. We’ve made a lot of national appearances over the last few years so we’re ready for the pressure.”
Belle Long contributed reporting.