Wellesley College’s crew team competed this past weekend in the Women’s Collegiate Eight at the 51st Head of the Charles Regatta. The event, which is the largest two-day regatta in the world, drew more than 10,000 athletes and 2,000 boats, including two boats from Wellesley. The annual regatta, which usually occurs on the penultimate weekend of October, includes individual and team races at the college, high school, club and international level. The three mile race begins at Boston University’s DeWolfe Boathouse and finishes upstream at the Eliot Bridge in Brighton.
Coming into the regatta, one of Blue Crew’s major goals was to have both Wellesley boats finish within the top half of the Women’s Collegiate Eights 32 boats, which would ensure that two Wellesley boats would qualify to compete in next year’s Head of the Charles. Wellesley was able to achievement this goal with the first varsity boat finishing in fourth place at a time of 17:40.790 and the second varsity boat in 15th place with a time of 18:27.283. The first varsity boat finished behind only Williams College, Mercyhurst University and Bates College.
Blue Crew is led by Head Coach Tessa Spillane, Assistant Coach Hannah Woodruff and Novice Coach Seth Hussey. The lineup for Wellesley’s first varsity eight consisted of Alessandra Zaldivar-Giuffredi ’16, Emilia Ball ’19, Kathryn Barth ’17, Lauren Bazley ’18, Katie Livingston ’19, Anna Hakes ’17, Jocelyn Reahl ’19, Olivia Thayer ’16 and Meg Roberts ’16. The second varsity eight was composed of Stephanie Kim ’18, Nina McKee ’16, Sahar Ibrahim ’16, Alexandra Rondeau ’17, Margaret Babikian ’18, Grace Howland ’16, Sloane Rice ’18, Olivia Duggan ’17 and Sally Ruderman ’16. For Captains Roberts, McKee and Thayer, this year’s Head of the Charles was a memorable experience.
More than 300,000 spectators attend the Head of the Charles annually. This year, conditions were notably frigid as competitors and spectators dealt with a freeze warning during the event. Yet the regatta was lively. Even famed Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte made an appearence, entertaining many selfies and photo requests that later inundated Facebook Newsfeeds. As the spectators gathered and cheered from the shores and bridges, crew teams from a variety of schools raced on the Charles River. Undoubtedly, Blue Crew had many supporters, especially superfan students, cheering them on during the three-mile race on the river.
“Racing at the Head of the Charles is unlike any other competitive experience. Hearing “Go Blue!” shouted as we turned every corner was an incredible motivator. It was an honor to participate in an event with such a deep historical significance for the rowing community, and to do so with the outflow of support we saw yesterday from family, friends, teammates and fellow students made the experience unique and very special,” Roberts said. “I think we learned a lot about ourselves as a team and about our speed and potential this weekend, but we’re always hungry for more.”
McKee noted that Wellesley crew, at its core, is always multi-boat focused as it works on achieving great results for every boat. The results it has achieved this fall season so far, including its 1st, 9th and 11th place finishes at the Snake and at its achievements this past weekend have solidified this sentiment.
“There are so many people and so many teams there that you really feel like you’re part of something huge, as though you’re a part of history. Because it was the first time in a while that we’ve had a 2V in HOCR, it was also special to have such an awesome race with that boat –– to show that, really, the Wellesley 2V deserves to keep getting that racing opportunity,” McKee said.
Jocelyn Wong ’18, a member of the Blue Crew, though unable to row at the regatta, supported her teammates at the event.
“One of highlights was seeing how Blue Crew rowed and pulled hard for each other in the boat, as well as for the team. A boat’s line-up can change a lot due to each person’s technique on the water and erg score, so it was great to see our team adapt and row so well together,” Wong said.
Hard work and training enabled Wellesley Crew to perform well at the Head of the Charles. Roberts noted the team trains both on and off the shore to develop speed and power. During training sessions on the water, each boat performs at its highest level by challenging the boat above and below it. The three-mile surely challenged the Wellesley Blue rowers; a race in which they could measure themselves against their competitors, but more importantly, against their past efforts and performances.
“Leadingup to HOCR was an intense time of each boat across the team pushing each other; so our 3V really pushed our 2V who really pushed our 1V. More than anything, the HOCR results showed the depth that our team has. Knowing that we have another really fast 3rd boat (that didn’t compete) is really exciting because we’ll all continue to push one another to get faster going into the last two weeks of our season, winter training and onto the spring,” McKee said.
Many of Wellesley’s competitors were present at the Head of the Charles, some of which Wellesley will not meet again until April of next year. Having seen the field and competed against some of the other teams, Wellesley is motivated to continue to get better in the last two weeks of water training with high intensity and will soon begin to shift into winter training mode.
“This regatta was a great chance for us to see where our competitors are this year. Sunday’s results against the top DIII teams – Williams, Bates, Trinity – gave us a preview of their speed, and where we should focus our attention over winter training. In order to accomplish our goals this spring, we have to put in a lot of hard work over winter training, and knowing where we stand against our competition is a great source of motivation,” Thayer said.
There is much excitement for Wellesley going forward as its strong performance at the Head of the Charles is indicative of its potential. As Wellesley’s fall racing season comes to a close, the team aims to improve through its practices and winter training program.
“As we begin our training program and hit the ergs and the weight room hard over the winter, training in windowless rooms and longing for fresh air and water under our boats, races like (the Head of the Charles) help keep our competitors at the forefront of our minds,” Roberts said.
Wong said that a theme the team is focusing on this year is to be “Hill Seekers”, which encourages the team to overcome any challenges it may encounter over the season and view them as opportunities to get stronger. Sally Ruderman, who rowed on the second varsity eight boat, appreciated the teamwork shown by Blue Crew at the regatta. This teamwork not only required cooperation within the boat, but also collaboration between the two boats Wellesley sported at the Head of the Charles.
“We were thrilled to get two boats in because we have a strong team that is deep enough to be competitive in this year’s race. The great results from this weekend show not only the strength of the top two boats, but of the entire team and how we encourage each other to improve and get faster every day,” Ruderman said. “This season has been one of finding new peaks and even faster top speeds. Our next, and last race for this fall, is the Seven Sisters Championship. I think we are all eager to see how much speed we can bring to the end of the season.”
Wellesley College crew will next compete at the Seven Sisters Championships on Nov. 1 at Mount Holyoke.