With a rigorous practice schedule, many returning athletes, experienced coaches and the drive to succeed, UR crew looks to a promising 2002-2003 season.
The team, comprised of men and women, meets five days a week at approximately 6:00 am and on Saturday morning as well to practice their rowing on the Genesee River. Both the varsity and novice -new rowers- teams are preparing for upcoming headraces this fall and sprints in the spring.
A headrace is three miles and rowers can compete individually, in pairs, in a boat of four or a boat of eight rowers. Sprints are 2000 meters and head coach of crew, Bill McLean, describes them as a “dash to the finish.”
With a variety of options to race, including various weight classes, separate or mixed genders and boat sizes, each race is exciting and fast-paced to draw many spectators. “There is like this total adrenaline rush at the starting line before the officials yell ‘go’,” sophomore Jennifer Leung, member of the varsity team, said.
A vital part of the rowing team is the coxswain, who, according to McLean, “steers the boat, entertains and executes the race plan, and takes the role of the coach to make sure that there is rhythm, steering, awareness of other crews, good positioning on the river and also the mental task of motivating the athletes in the boat.”
He continued by saying that the coxswain, dubbed “Cox” in the sport, “does physical work in a mental capacity.”
Coxswain, rowers, coaches, officials and spectators all gather for the races, or regattas, held throughout the season.
UR crew begins their season with the Head of the Fish Regatta. The entire team will travel to Saratoga Springs, New York to compete, followed by the famed Head of the Charles race in Boston, Mass.
Men’s crew captain, senior Whitney Barnebey, explains how The Head of the Charles is “the fall racing event that allows you to gauge yourself against the other teams.”
Leung names the race during Meliora Weekend as an exciting one, stating that “we’ll be on our home course and I have not yet raced on the Genesee yet. The rest of the school can come out and see what it is we do every morning.”
This season will mark the 21st year of Intercollegiate Competitive Roing at UR, and the club sports program has grown significantly since its birth. Both the men and women’s teams have been multiple champions in the past decade at the New York State Championships and the Dad Vail Regatta, with impressive performances in qualifying for the 10th consecutive year for the Avaya Collegiate Championships and the National Championships.
The precedents set by these accomplishments further motivate the teams to challenge themselves to succeed again this season. The team, however, has other goals planned for the year. “This year, we have a lot of young rowers, but I feel like we have a lot of potential and can stand up to the challenge of getting better,” Gale said. There are several freshmen on the varsity teams, but the crew is predominately upperclassmen. These include Jordan Bell, Chris Cornachione, Chris Dunham, David Heman, Joanna Lee and Genevive Markey.
Like any sport, crew encompasses a host of rivalries.
Rochester crew looks to defeat Rochester Institute of Technology, local competition who also shares the Genesee River for the program.
“Racing RIT and beating them is a big morale race,” Barnebey said..
McLean also named Williams College, Ithaca College, Hobart College and RIT as tough competitors for the women and Ithaca and Marist College for the men.
What makes these rivalries vibrant and exciting, however, are the traditions that are associated with them. Although the team relishes in throwing the coxswain into the water following a
victory, the tradition of “betting shirts” is also a focus of the races. Following the race, the two boats will move together and the losing team will literally give their shirts to the winning boat.
This tradition, which both the men’s and women’s teams at UR participate in, traces back to the 1800’s. “A little prestige goes with it,” McLean said. “It’s exciting when you get the shirt.”
The combination of tradition, the physical benefits, the feeling of accomplishment and exhilaration following each race, the team aspect and personal satisfaction denote crew as a unique sport. “The sport itself is the camaraderie, it’s fun, the experience of rowing,
it’s an experience,” McLean said.
Josephson can be reached at email@example.com.