BLEACHER FEATURE: A conversation with Wellesley’s Athlete of the Week

By EMILY BARY ’14, Editor in Chief

Crew coxswain Alessandra Zaldivar-Giuffredi ’16, pictured in the Wellesley boathouse, has been doing crew for six years.

Crew coxswain Alessandra Zaldivar-Giuffredi ’16, pictured in the Wellesley boathouse, has been doing crew for six years.

Blue crew has a history of success, with top-five finishes nationally for the past four years. The team came in fifth at nationals last season, and is looking to continue its success, but seven out of the nine people in last year’s first varsity eight boat have graduated. Now the team is made up predominantly of sophomores, and Alessandra Zaldivar-Giuffredi ’16 is just one of the sophomores who has taken on a bigger role this year. She is the coxswain for the first varsity eight boat, which took eighth place in the collegiate eight division of the Head of the Charles two weeks ago and earned a second place finish at the Seven Sisters championships last weekend.

Before heading to the boathouse, Zaldivar-Giuffredi spoke with me about moving up to become the coxswain for the team’s top boat. Excerpts of our conversation follow.

Emily Bary (E.B.): How long have you been doing crew?

Alessandra Zaldivar-Giuffredi (A.Z.): This is my sixth year. I started in my first year of high school when my friend asked me to be on the team with her. I tested it out, was put in the coxswain seat and loved it.

E.B.: What’s the toughest part about being a coxswain?

A.Z.: Checking yourself. You have to check your own ego and your progress. It’s very abstract coaching, and you have to think before you act and think before you speak.

E.B.: What was it like making the move to the first varsity eight boat?

A.Z.: The move was interesting. We lost a coxswain last year who was a senior and graduated, and we had a coxswain earlier this year who decided to take some time off, so we have two sophomore coxswains on our very young team. I know I have big shoes to fill, but there was a lot of support and my teammates are pushing me to reach new levels.

E.B.: What’s the dynamic like in your boat?

A.Z.: Right now we’re a majority of sophomores: two seniors, one first year and six sophomores. I think we’re a very fresh lineup. We bring freshness and get to set the standard for ourselves. One of the things we’ve been talking about recently is that we’re all willing to adapt and work hard for each other.

E.B.: What’s a typical workout like for you?

A.Z.: I don’t work out at all. I’ll time the rowers doing workouts, but coxswains are just supposed to be small, and I’m naturally small. I check what I eat to make sure I’m keeping healthy. And twice a week when the team does secondary workouts on the erg machines, I’ll attend so I can cox them on the erg and let them know that I’m physically there for them. I think you get a lot out of working with individual athletes off the water. You see technical, individual things about everyone on the team, not just people in my boat. It helps build all-around team speed.

E.B.: And you go to the early morning practices?

A.Z.: Right. That’s when we’re on the water.

E.B.: What time do you go to bed before those?

A.Z.: I try to be in bed before 10, and I wake up at 4:13.

E.B.: Last year’s team did very well at nationals. Do you feel pressure to do as well as they did?

A.Z.: We lost a lot of seniors and miss them very much. We definitely feel pressure to fill their shoes. The sophomores feel pressure to grow up and “be” seniors. But we’re a fast, hard-working team, and if we stay in the right mindset, we can get the same results.

E.B.: What are your goals for the season?

A.Z.: To continue to improve by getting feedback from the athletes and coaches. Trying to stay in the first varsity eight boat by actively getting better. I want to improve team speed and get two boats to NCAAs.

E.B.: Thank you, Alessandra.

Wellesley crew wrapped up its fall season with a team win at the Seven Sisters championships. The team will be back in action for the spring season on March 29. 

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