Course obstacles keep Villanova crew from reaching potential in regatta

Anne Boyd

Last weekend the women’s rowing team traveled to Boston to participate in the Head of the Charles Regatta, a key race of the short fall season. Even though the regatta took place in 40 degree, rainy weather, the conditions did not stop over 200,000 people from coming out to support the teams.

The Varsity Eight boat was one of two boats Villanova had in the regatta. ‘Nova’s boat finished ninth out of 38 boats. This particular boat was in position to be in place for a top-5 finish, but was slowed by slower boats that were blocking its path to victory.

“Junior coxswain Sarah Callahan managed to thread her [boat] through the confusion, but not before having to slow her crew and choose a slower line after being denied the right of way by her competitors,” coach Brian Burke said.

Still, the Varsity Eight boat finished better than last year and earned an automatic bid to next year’s regatta.

Villanova’s other boat participating in the race, the Lightweight Eight boat finished ninth out of 15 boats. The women faced a tough match as they fought to cross the finish line ahead of Princeton, Radcliffe and Wisconsin, last year’s top three national championship finishers.

“The lights rowed a relatively consistent, aggressive race, but were simply outmatched by the fasted colleges and clove that took the top spots,” Burke said. The winning boat was from the Riverside Boat Club which set a course record and also had 2001 Villanova alumna Hannah Moore sitting in the seven seat.

The results of the regatta were seen as successful by coaches. “Every athlete can always do better, but they performed well,” head coach Jack St. Clair said.

The successful results of the weekend competition could be partially accounted for by the number of returning experienced rowers.

There are a good number of returning sophomores, a few returning juniors, and one returning senior, according to St. Clair.

“One of the strengths of this year’s team is the experienced group of kids coming back this year,” he said.

The women will race locally on Saturday in the Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia.

It is the only fall regatta left for the varsity rowers. St. Clair expects the two eights in the collegiate events to do well.

There will also be two Novice Eight boats in the race, marking the first regatta of the season for the novice squad consisting mainly of freshman walk-on rowers.

“The Varsity Eight will be looking to vent the frustrations they experienced in Boston and finish amongst the very top of the 33-boat field,” Burke said. “The Junior Varsity Eight will be a new line-up, and will be looking to match closely to the speed of the Varsity Eight boat.”

The fall season primarily serves as training for the spring season which consists of many more races, all of which are shorter but require a much faster rowing pace.

“The main goals of the fall are improving technique and fitness, with thoughts focused on the championship races in May,” Burke said. “In this regard, the entire team has been performing well, and competition will be tough for the top sports come spring.”

Despite the fact that there are only a few regattas in the fall season, it is still a good indicator of performances to come. “In the fall there’s not much to say yet, but the team is progressing and getting on track for the spring season and I’m very pleased with the improvement so far,” St. Clair said. “They are getting better every week.”