Prepare to see more athletes on the dock then tanning students as, UT’s rowing team heads down to the boat house for an entirely different purpose. Having already completed a scrimmage against USF Friday, February 27, the rowing team is well on their way to a promising season.
Coach Bill Dunlap, a five time gold medal rower, has been coaching the crew team since 1981. Under Dunlap, the Spartans have won seven gold medals, five at the Dad Vail (a non NCAA national championship) and two at the NCAA Collegiate Nationals. Dunlap gave a rundown of the regattas (boat meets) the team will be competing in this season.
“The rest of the season, we’ll be racing four women’s 4+, and that’s varsity and novice lightweight and heavy weight. And that’s what we’ll race at our state championship and at SIRA, which is the Southern Intercollegiate Regatta,” said Dunlap. “Because we’re a small team we focus on 4+. I tell people I’d rather win an 8+ than a 4+, but I’d rather win a 4+ then lose an 8+. We don’t have the depth yet in the eights, but maybe later on down the road with the women’s lightweight.”
Although the crew team is registered by the NCAA, the real competition for our Spartans is on the intercollegiate circuit. Dunlap explained that this competition is important to crews because rowing existed before the NCAA was established.
“The world of rowing is divided into the NCAA programs that have a lot of money, there are crews in Florida that have fifteen full scholarships. We’re an NCAA team officially, but we essentially have no scholarships. So we can’t really compete head to head with fully recruited teams,” said Dunlap. “Fortunately rowing existed before there was an NCAA, so there’s a whole world of rowing that has nothing to do with the NCAA. And that’s mostly where we compete. Our real competition is against other minimally funded, varsity teams and a lot of club teams like UF.”
Senior Kaitlyn Goff is one of the captains of the rowing team and is looking forward to the “huge adrenaline rush” that spring season brings. She will be competing in the varsity women’s 4+ and feels confident about their performance. She knows that the regattas can be hard to make for other students because they’re typically not in Tampa, but she appreciates community support. Goff would like to educate her fellow Spartans about the sport more so they could enjoy spectating when they made it out to regattas.
“It is hard for the UT community to make it to the races, but it would be nice if they knew more about the sport because it is often confused with kayaking or dragon boats. Rowing is a very intense competitive sport and I would love for the UT community to know more about the sport, especially since the 2017 World Rowing Championships are being held in Sarasota,” said Goff.
As far as training goes the Spartans have a huge jump on the competition, since they started their practices in January while most teams don’t get on the water till April. Coach Dunlap recognizes the necessity of boats being on the water a lot for technique, but also has to work around the time constraints some students have.
“My personal feeling is that intensity is more important than duration, and that actually works given the constraints on scheduling.The varsity gets out [on the water] at 6 a.m., and its hard enough to get people up at six and I have to assume they have 8 a.m. classes so that gives us an hour and a half from dock to [pick up]. Its the same for novices. They start at 4 p.m. and I have to assume they have 6 p.m. classes, so I have to get them [on land] by 5:20 p.m. for class,” said Dunlap. “We go out do what we need to do and everyone is out [on time]. We typically do a six or seven mile row, which is probably an hour on the water, but that’s plenty of time if it includes some flat out work.”
The next regatta the Spartans are set to compete is FIRA (Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association) located in Sarasota, Florida at Nathan Benderson Park. Regattas are free to watch, and usually all day events. For park location, go to http://www.worldclassrowing.com.
“I love the races, as much as they are hard they are so exciting. My team is great, our trips are always interesting and we get to go to some awesome places. I have life long friends from rowing and they are all awesome,” said Goff.
Katherine Lavacca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org