Women’s rowing is looking to build on last season’s success as they begin their 2021-22 fall season.
The Colonials rowed into the fall season at the Head of the Potomac race Sept. 26 for the first time since 2019, as the A and B teams placed first and second, respectively. The team continued on a similar note to last spring’s success after placing second in the Atlantic 10 Championship to match a program high finish May 15.
Head coach Marci Robles said the team only had four full days of practice before the first race, but racing in their facility once again has instilled more confidence in the team.
“I think we started the year off on a really positive note,” Robles said. “We spent a lot of time this summer talking about how we wanted to start, and where we wanted to start from just a preparation standpoint. And they came in ready, this is a bigger team this year.”
Last year’s squad featured a roster of 41 rowers while this year’s team totals 43 members, all vying for the top positions on the boats. Despite welcoming 13 new freshmen, Robles said the team immediately began training at a high level and saw early success. She said the team is in a “fantastic place” after the “stressful” past year and has been working on maintaining a positive mindset for the rest of the upcoming season.
Robles also said the team is currently zeroing in on their peak fitness to improve their speed and make the necessary changes to get the most out of the rowers. She said the excitement and commitment to working hard among the rowers is “palpable across the board.”
“It’s just making an adjustment to the training and the mindset of the training and the approach to the training so that they can get the most out of it,” Robles said. “We’re also working on a lot of technical things on the water, having our first-year students get to learn the stroke that we coach and the rhythm that we coach.”
The team only competed in the spring last season, forgoing the fall slate due to complications presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the team has a fall slate this year, Robles said the way they train hasn’t changed. She said the team is still concentrating on being mindful and intentional about how they carry themselves around the community so they can achieve their ultimate goal.
“Our collective mission is winning in the classroom, winning on the water and winning in the community,” Robles said. “I think when I got here, we were doing two out of those three things really well, we’re winning in the classroom and winning in the community. And so the team wants to sort of complete the trifecta so to speak, and get that win on the water.”
Senior Lauren Bolton said the main goal of the fall slate is to build a baseline level of speed that they “haven’t seen before” with the addition of new rowers this season. The team went into the first race thinking of it as a training session, as many of the boat rosters had been mixed up to even out the speed and increase the competitiveness to identify the strongest rowers, she said.
“Everybody is fighting for their seats, specifically because you don’t have another boat of people with the same speed as you to back you up,” Bolton said.
Bolton added that the team named one of their boats “The Class of 2020” in honor of the women’s rowing class of 2020, who endured their 2019-20 season being canceled, to serve as a reminder for what they row for and a chance to take the program to new heights.
“There were a lot of really dedicated amazing girls in that group,” Bolton said. “I think five of the six got to come back for the dedication, but along with that gratitude comes a sense of we have the chance to do something that that class never did. So it’s all about doing it for them and doing it for the girls that came before us and after us.”
Senior coxswain Claire Knox said the team is still fine-tuning the technical aspects of their skillset but that they have a solid positive base. She said the Head of the Potomac race allowed them to push each other to “new levels” and increase their internal competitiveness.
Knox said last season helped the team “mature” and appreciate the effect of their individual and collective actions. She said the team is grateful for still having the opportunity to row at a high level with one another.
“We just had an opportunity to really take ownership over and recognize how all of our actions impact our sport and our performance on the water and we’ve really had the opportunity to build on that and this fall so far,” Knox said.
She said integrating the new members of the team “has gone really well” and the team has been a “great environment” to be a part of as they work to get to know each other and build a culture for success.
“Everyone is so motivated,” Knox said. “From the minute we arrive at practice at six in the morning, everyone is so happy to be there and so ready to work hard. And just really committed to the team and really, really excited to push a little harder. It’s been a great start to the season.”
The Colonials’ next test on the water will be the Occoquan Chase Oct. 17 in Fairfax Station, Va.