Rowing Towards Success
June 2, 2017
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After starting winter training the weekend after Thanksgiving and not letting up one bit through May 27, the rowing team concluded the 2017 season with their best finish ever at nationals. Junior Emmy Wuensch and senior Eliza MacKnight brought home the team’s first silver medal at nationals in the women’s double.
“[Placing second at nationals] felt really good because we were supposed to place at Stotesbury, but we finished fourth by 0.4 seconds, and that really sucked,” MacKnight said. “So we kind of felt like our season was over, but then placing second at nationals was like all of our hard work had paid off and it wasn’t like it was actually over at Stotesbury.”
MacKnight said that it was a very close race, and that she and Wuensch pushed themselves to the point of nausea, but that it was definitely worth it.
“The athletes that were on the top boats were very committed to practice,” head coach Cathy Coffman said. “Very few ever missed practice for anything. They stuck around during spring break and they came to every practice, not that I expect otherwise, but they were very committed to getting faster.”
Coffman explained that part of their success came from changing their practice routines this year. They lifted weights earlier and formed their lifting routines so that they were more interval-based, and they did more running than they had done in previous years.
“Two years ago, we had a huge group of novice rowers, and so it’s taken a couple years for them to, one, learn how to row well enough to compete at that level, and second, a lot of them rowed with Rivanna Rowing Club last summer. That helped so they kept getting better,” Coffman said.
“Because they were more skilled on the water [this year], we were able to have harder workouts. It’s kind of hard to have a hard workout when you’re still learning how to row because it’s very skill-based.”
Ten athletes travelled to Camden, New Jersey for nationals on May 26- 27. Freshman Hillary Lewis and senior Erin O’hara in the lightweight girls’ double, juniors Hugh Rickard and Jake Pierce in the lightweight boys’ double, sophomore Bri Knight in the women’s single, and seniors Clark Benham, Luke Christianson, John Ray and freshman Zack Arzouni in the boys’ quad.
At Nationals, the girls’ double finished sixth, the women’s’ double finished second, the lightweight boys’ double finished fourth.
“[One word to describe my season] is patience,” O’hara said. “I got a new partner this year. I had been rowing with one girl for a long time, but she decided to not row this year so I had to get a new partner. I tried out a bunch of different people in my boat with me, and I just to be patient and help them to be the best that they could be, while helping myself to be the best that I can be. It’s just involved a lot of patience.”
O’hara eventually was paired up with freshman Hillary Lewis and they went to nationals as a part of the same boat.
“I can see that our times are improving, and our strength is definitely improving from all of the weights that we’ve done. Our technique is one of the things that improves every practice,” O’hara said. “We just get a little technically better every time.”
O’hara said that practices can last up to three hours, including running, rowing, and then lifting or running again.
“We’re cross-training while we’re training on the water and we just try to fit in as much work as we possibly can,” O’hara said. “We don’t shy away from hard work.”
After her 2017 senior season with Albemarle, O’hara will be going on to row at the collegiate level at William and Mary.
The team will lose five seniors, but are looking forward to next year’s regattas.
“We have a lot of work to do ahead of us, but every year I say that because every year we lose between five and seven rowers and we end up doing okay. Somebody always steps up,” Coffman said.
“It’s hard to tell [who will step up next year] because what happens is in the off-season, it depends on who decides they want to get faster and they want to get stronger. We had a pretty big group of new rowers this year.
We had probably seven or eight new team members, and sometimes different rowers mature at different rates so it just depends on what they do in the off-season.”