Winter Loosening Its Grasp?
All across New England, rowing programs have faced unprecedented challenges this March. Record-breaking cold in February plunged the northeast into a deep freeze. Waterways that normally stay open all winter, including our very own Connecticut River, iced over. And the thaw has stubbornly refused to arrive. In the first two weeks of March, we watched with dismay as days slipped by with no noticeable change in the icepack on our stretch of water. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the Amherst crews were unable to row on their home course during their spring break week. Thanks to the generosity of the Narragansett Boat Club in Providence, Rhode Island, we were able to eke out some water time. Unfortunately, after we packed up and left the Seekonk, we returned home to a river still under ten inches of solid ice.
As a result, our first three races--two on the Connecticut and one at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester--have been canceled. But there are signs of hope here in Amherst, at long last. A few days of (relatively) warm weather and steady rain are forecasted to send the Connecticut River into flood, potentially breaking up and washing downstream the icepack that has kept us in limbo since March 1.
The Amherst rowers and coxswains have been tested this season as never before. How strong is our trust in each other? How strong is our faith in this sport? Undoubtedly, we would prefer to be confronting such questions in more favorable circumstances. But we will persevere. The river could clear any day now. And then we will be back to business as usual: training to win races.
Amherst Crews Wrap Up Fall Season on the Connecticut
Every September in Amherst something magical happens. The days shorten; the leaves change; a crisp chill cuts through the summer's haze. It's the New England autumn---spectacular from any vantage point, but best enjoyed from the sliding seat of an Amherst boat.
The Amherst crews have just wrapped up a solid two months on the water. As ususal, the fall's focus was on technical development, especially for our brand new crop of novice rowers. There was a strong turnout of new recruits this year: nearly forty men and women stepped into a racing shell for this first time in September and October. The novices have already made incredible progress, and we're looking to continue that momentum as winter training ramps up.
As for the varsity crews, each group faced distinct challenges. Last year's novice men won gold at New England Championships, and the goal this fall was to integrate the now-sophomores into varsity boats. The men's success was mixed: a seventh-place finish at the Quinsigamond Snake Regatta, and hard-fought defeat to Connecticut College at the Amherst Invitational Regatta. Still, Coach Stekl is pleased with the technical progress that the crews have been making over the past few weeks. We're optimistic that more elements will fall into place in the spring.
The women had the difficult but rewarding task of transitioning into an 8. Although Amherst predominantly competes in 4s, the women won a bid to race the Head of the Charles in the collegiate 8s event. It was exciting to watch their development as they adjusted to a bigger---and faster---boat this season. Despite narrowly missing a top-half finish on the Charles, the Amherst women came back with a strong showing on our home course, defeating rival Clark University by over thirty seconds in a three-kilometer race.
Thank you to all the parents and friends who lent support to the team this season. As we now hunker down for the long New England winter, we remain grateful for another gorgeous fall, alive and fighting on the Connecitcut River.
Novice Men Triumph at Head of the Fish
The team capped the fall season by traveling to Saratoga Springs to compete in the Head of the Fish regatta. With the strike of a severe winter storm expected, the team was forced to scratch its boats in the afternoon races, hoping that an early departure would allow the team to miss the worst of the weather. Despite the cancellations, Amherst was still able to place seven boats onto the water.
The first varsity men, who had struggled all season to find their speed, continued to have a rough time of it. Coming off the water, despite a lineup change, the men reported a disappointing row, finishing 14 out of 32 behind rivals such as Middlebury and Franklin Pierce. The second, third, and fourth varsity men's boats had similarly mixed results finishing 19th, 26th and 30th.
Competing with the varsity men this week was the novice men's four. Originally among the cancelled boats, the novice men were able to squeeze into the earlier men's varsity race. After performing well at the Head of the Snake two weeks earlier, hopes were high for the novice men. They did not disappoint. Despite having joined the team less than two months ago, the novice men finished an astounding 9th out of 32, a performance which placed them ahead of seasoned varsity crews from Tufts and Hobart as well as Amherst's own V1.
Participating in their first race were the novice men's eight and the novice women's four. Both boats performed well in their first outing. Entered in a tough event--varsity programs from Williams and Wesleyan, as well as boats from DI clubs like UMass were in attendance--and with their four best rowers competing in the fours, the men's novice eight responded with great pluck. Fighting their way through the narrow race course, the nov men finished 18th of 26th. The novice woman placed even higher than their counterparts in the eight, finishing eighth out of a field of 21.
Heading back to Amherst, the team struck trouble. The promised snow storm, supposed to hit at 3 PM, came an hour early, catching the team's vans, truck and trailer half way between home and the race venue. With visibility poor, and the roads turning to ice, the team slowed down to a crawl. With shaken nerves--no less than four accidents were observed by this writer--the team's vans were thankfully able to make it home, albeit an hour and a half after they were expected. The trailer, loaded with several hundreds of thousands dollars worth of boats, nearly crashed after losing traction while traveling up an icy hill. Thankfully, a truck loaded with salt was able to melt the ice beneath the truck, allowing it to continue onward and eventually arrive safely at Amherst.
Head of the Charles
This weekend the men's and women's first varsity fours traveled to Boston to compete in the Head of the Charles.
In the men's boat were juniors James Fromson and Jack Eastburn, senior co-captains Richard Galluzzi and Alex Stone, and senior coxswain's captain Cindy Li. Despite major improvements over the past week in drive connection and set, the boat still couldn't find the speed it needed. Finishing 23rd out of 39 boats, the men fell just outside the top half of the field, missing an automatic entry in next year's Head of the Charles.
The women's boat, off the water much of the past month due to scheduling conflicts, attacked the water in Boston as a largely untested boat. Featuring senior co-captain Rachel Brickman at stroke, sophomores Emma Vaimberg and Noelle Niu at 2 & 3, senior co-captain Leah Longoria at bow, and Amelia Schoenbeck as cox, the boat managed to pull out 25th place out of 33, finishing just ahead of boats from Liberty University and Vassar.
Head of the Snake
The Amherst Men's Crew Team kicked off their fall season today at the Head of the Snake regatta in Quinsigamond. In attendance from Amherst were four varsity fours, a novice four, and an exhibition four composed of ex-national team rowers.
Finishing fifth and sixth for Amherst were the exhibition boat and the men's first varsity boat with times of 14:58 and 15:02. The second, third, and fourth varsity boats turned in times of 16:16, 16:33, and 17:50, good for twelfth, fourteenth, and nineteenth out of the twenty boat field.
Performing extremely well for its first outing was the novice four (Cox: Lindon Chen '15, 4: Geoffrey Phillips '15, 3: Connor Sholtis '15, 2: Johannes Ferstad '15, 1: Michael Flaster '14). With no novice event at the regatta, the Amherst nov were forced to row against the varsity. Despite that challenge, as well as a ripping tail wind and no more than "five minutes of continuous rowing" under their belts, the four crossed the line in 16:36--good for fifthteenth overall and ahead of Brandeis' 1V, Amherst's own 4V, and boats from Bowdoin and Mass Maritime Academy. Boat member Michael Flaster described his feelings about the race succinctly: "Never had a rush like that."
Against The Current
Want a first-hand look at what it's like to row for Amherst? Created by women's co-captain Leah Longoria, Against The Current follows the men's varsity four as they attempt to claim rowing gold.
Amherst swept its first regatta of the Spring on Saturday, March 26, claiming victories in every event. Amherst raced Mass Maritime and Franklin Pierce on its own course. Undaunted by the frigid conditions and strong headwind, the Amherst crews are looking forward to more great racing next weekend in Worcester.
Goodbye Jordan, Hello Jesse!
For the past two years, rower Jordan Brower '07 has served as an assistant coach for Amherst Crew. He brought experience, handsomeness, and a frighteningly large lexicon to the team. Unfortunately, he's leaving the team to pursue a PhD in English at Yale—and to reunite with his long-lost crew co-captain and BFF, Chris Parkinson '07.
Fortunately, the team is now graced with the presence of rower-turned-coach Jesse Jokinen '10. Jesse just came off a successful season as co-captain and two-seat of the first women's varsity four, and is excited to coach the novice women this year.