After two years off the water, women’s rowing is preparing for the A-10 Championship beginning May 15.
The Colonials rode out a postponed season after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the fall 2020 slate to the spring. After competing in just four races all season, women’s rowing looks to replicate its historical second-place finish at the 2019 A-10 Championship this time in 2021.
“I think we’ve been working on really just trying to stay focused on the simple things and the things that we can control this year,” head coach Marci Robles said. “There’s just been so much out of our control and you know, disruptive. And so just keeping the blinders on and making sure that we are focusing on what’s directly in front of us.”
Robles said the team has been doing a “phenomenal job” following the COVID-19 guidelines in order to retain their season. Initially, the team had to train in smaller boats in groups of four or pairs instead of the championship size of eight. She said she’s proud of the team for demonstrating their commitment to one another.
“I think that speaks volumes to the care and the commitment that these athletes have put into just making sure that they’re managing every day in a way that’s responsible,” Robles said. “Again it’s a big team and we all train together and so knowing that everybody’s actions, no matter how small, have an impact on the group.”
She said she has also placed an emphasis on prioritizing mental health and staying connected as a team over the summer given the myriad of challenges they have faced amid the pandemic.
“I think we spent a lot of time processing, having something taken away so abruptly,” Robles said. “I think it has certainly inspired a lot of gratitude for the opportunities that we do have now.”
The Colonials have aimed to take full advantage of the season now that they’re back in action. Despite falling to No. 12 Rutgers, all three squads defeated Saint Joseph’s in the season opener with the first Varsity Eight winning by a margin of six seconds March 27. Two weeks later, the first and second varsity boats finished second behind Rhode Island but overcame Massachusetts and Saint Joseph’s yet again.
Senior Alexa Miller-Smith said she was “pleased” with how the teams stacked up against conference foes Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She added the team has gotten faster since their last meeting and is “optimistic” about closing the gap in the A-10 Championship.
GW was also swept by Navy in all three contests April 17 but bounced back against George Mason. The first Varsity Eight topped the Patriots May 2 by a healthy margin of 20 seconds while the second Varsity Eight and the Varsity Four each won by more than 30 seconds.
“I think it’s always nice to have a couple more races, just ironing out the racing plan and getting a couple more practice runs under your belt,” Miller-Smith said. “But I honestly think that we’ve done a really good job about making the most of the races we have had.”
She said though the condensed slate of races this year has limited their competition, the squad has been able to practice against each other to simulate the competitive atmosphere when they’re not racing against other teams. The team is excited to see who will be in the final lineup come this weekend.
Senior Emma Peelle said the complications presented by the pandemic make it harder to predict who will come out on top in the A-10 and added it could be “anyone’s race.” She said the team is feeling confident ahead of the championships this weekend after taking down George Mason and rebuilding their cohesion as a team.
“As a collective, the team just was a little bit more relaxed and confident and that really translated onto the water,” Peelle said. “We had some really good solid pieces, and it really is just a testament to all the training we’ve been doing and having that behind our backs, just building our confidence for future races to come.”
The Colonials will set out on the Cooper River for a chance at the A-10 title Saturday in Pennsauken, New Jersey.