BY MELISSA TORRE
UT’s rowing team is preparing for their second regatta of the season, The Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association (FIRA) Championship on April 1, after a successful season opener at the 20th annual Mayor’s Cup.
Out of 22 competing teams–rivals such as Embry-Riddle, USF and St. Leo among them–the Spartans finished within the top three of every event they competed in. A major reason for this? A balanced blend of experience.
“I think it’s one of the more promising years we’ve had in awhile. Not only do we have experienced upperclassmen, but on top of that we’ve had a lot of experienced freshmen come in too,” senior Erin Townsend said.
Some top performances from the Mayor’s Cup include freshman Taylor Pecci and junior Stephanie Brouwer’s first-place performance in the women’s double with an impressive final time of 6:36. The women’s novice four boat, of seniors Erin Townsend, Naomi Cook and Jessica Yetman, freshman Anna VanBenschoten, and sophomore coxswain Izzy Donabed led the boat to a second place finish with a final time of 6:40.
The women’s novice four boat started out the beginning of the race in last place, but pulled together to pass all the competing teams and close in on the first-place boat.
“We had a bad start at Mayor’s Cup, so it was just fun in the middle cause we really had to power through to end up getting second. To come from being last at the beginning of the race to passing all the other ones and almost finishing first is pretty awesome,” Townsend said.
One of the major areas the team has been constantly working on this season is finding the right boat combinations. This has been stressful on many of the rowers including Townsend and senior Meagan Hoffman because, according to them, it is hard to get into a rhythm when the boat dynamic is constantly shifting.
“This week I will have to make the hard decisions as to who is in and who isn’t. Not my favorite part of coaching,” coach William Dunlap said.
Another key rowing technique focused on during practice is working on pure race speed. Interval training has begun to lengthen from three or four minute sprints to six or seven minute sprints.
“Training always focuses on rowing technique, fitness and power. Those basics don’t change,” Dunlap said.
Starts are another major area of improving performance that the team has been working on, as well as strength training. Twice a week, the team completes a weightlifting workout at Martinez. During these practices the team not only lifts but also does medicine ball slams, dumbbell flies, sit-ups and crunches.
The rowing team aims to practice six days a week, but is often cut short to five days a week due to academic pressures and illnesses according to Dunlap.
“It is very frustrating because when everyone is there everyone for the most part gets to go on the water and practice and get something in, instead of not being as good as they could be if they came to every practice,” Dunlap said.
Lastly, one of the goals is to improve team spirit among the women, including cheering on team members between races. Veteran members like Hoffman believe that it will help pull better performances out of fellow teammates and encourage even more unity amongst the team.
“We did that at the last race and it was really good, but we need to make sure and maintain it and not have one person be like alright guys let’s go cheer on our team. It should be an automatic thing… not a told thing,” Hoffman said.
Although Dunlap doesn’t comment on individual rowers, because “rowers are only as good as the boats they row in,” Hoffman and Townsend believe otherwise.
According to the two, there have been a number of rookie freshmen who have made a big impact on the team so far this season. Including Taylor Pecci, and Maxie-Lew Dunn.
“[Dunn] definitely goes to almost every single practice. She works very hard even though she has knee problems in both of her knees, so she has to wear a knee brace and wrap both of her knees every single practice, yet she still works her absolute hardest,” Hoffman said.
After UT competes next weekend they are back in action for the SIRA Championships in Oakridge Tennessee on April 16 and 17.