Staff Writer

Courtesy of John Barth

Courtesy of John Barth

Charlotte Benishek ’16 has only had about two months of rowing experience on the water, but you wouldn’t be able to tell given her stellar results this season. The talented sophomore transitioned from squash to crew this year and was named to the all-novice team at the Seven Sisters regatta in the fall before making the move to the first varsity eight boat for the spring. 

This past weekend, Benishek helped Wellesley’s first boat edge out the first boat from Williams, the top-ranked Division-III team in the country. “Being a first-year rower, it’s a huge honor to be part of achieving a goal that the whole team has been working toward for years,” she said. “Since it’s early in the season, our boat is still discovering what speed we’re capable of, which is why this win over Williams, last year’s national champions, is incredibly exciting.”

Benishek recently sat down with the Wellesley News to discuss her move from squash to crew as well as the work ethic on the crew team. Excerpts of the conversation follow.

Emily Bary (E.B.): You played squash last year. Why’d you decide to start rowing?

Charlotte Benishek (C.B.): I was working really hard at squash and I wasn’t really seeing the results I wanted. I hadn’t played squash for that long — I’d played squash for a year before coming to Wellesley — and one of my good friends here was on the crew team. She told me my first year that I should consider doing crew, but I said I was just going to play squash. Then I reconsidered it after playing squash my first year. I loved the squash team, but I was putting in so much effort, and I thought I would be better at crew, so I decided to try crew.

E.B.: How was it starting crew?

C.B.: It was great. It was a surprisingly good way to get to know the first-years because I’m a sophomore, and many of the new rowers were first-years. The fall was all kind of a whirlwind because everything was so new and there was so much to learn. The spring has been a little bit nicer because I can focus on technique and other things instead of learning just everything about the sport.

E.B.: You moved from the novice boat to the top varsity boat. How was that?

C.B.: It’s been great. I was sort of nervous about it, but everyone has been really supportive and encouraging. There’s a lot to learn, especially since I’ve only been rowing on the water for like two months, because most of our winter season is indoors. So I know there’s still a lot to learn, but everyone’s been helpful, and it’s really exciting.

E.B.: What’s it like being on such a young team?

C.B.: I think that because there aren’t a lot of expectations, we’re just really eager to see what we can do. There’s also a lot of hope for the future and hope for building.

E.B.: The team has done really well at the national championship the past three years. Do you feel pressure, or is that not as much of an issue because you’re all so new?

C.B.: There’s not really pressure, but it’s good in the sense that we know that that’s been achieved before, and it’s totally achievable again. So we all kind of go into it with the mentality that we’re going to NCAAs. That’s what [coach Tessa Spillane] will say when we’re running hills. The national championship is in Indianapolis this year, and she’ll be like, “Indianapolis is really nice in May.” So it’s always in our mind that that is the goal, and it’s nice to have a concrete goal that you feel is attainable.

E.B.: What are your personal goals?

C.B.: We have boat goals and team goals, but personally I want to improve my technique. In rowing there’s power and then there’s technique, and it’s nice to have power, but it’s also nice to be able to apply your power efficiently. So that’s something that I want to improve on. I guess it just comes with time and being dedicated to accepting feedback, which the coxswains and the coaches are really good about giving.

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

C.B.: During the winter we’ll have a cross-fit workout, where you’re doing squats, sit-ups and running as fast as you can. Then we’ll do erging, spinning or yoga. When we’re on the water it can really vary, but we’ll get in about an hour and a half to two hours of rowing time. We’ll start with a technical warm-up and then go into the actual workout. Spring is sprint season, so it’s shorter races. Races in the fall tend to be longer. This morning we did a series of five really short pieces, focusing on sprinting.

E.B.: What time do you get up?

C.B.: My alarm’s set for 4:15 a.m., and the bus leaves at 4:45 a.m. We’re back on campus by 8 a.m. for people to get to their 8:30s. That means I have to go to bed around 9 p.m., ideally. The way I look at it is that I’m still getting the same amount of sleep, just sort of shifted.

E.B.: What’s your favorite part about the team?

C.B.: I love how everyone is so incredibly focused and dedicated. That’s something we really try to cultivate, and I think that’s been a big reason why the team is so successful. Everyone is there to support each other in giving it 100 percent. When we’re erging or something, the coaches will say, “The person next to you is going for it. Who else is going for it?” We’re really holding each other accountable for being the best we can be, and that’s a culture that I really appreciate and really identify with.

Benishek and the crew team next hit the water this weekend, with a pair of regattas. Wellesley will compete against Tufts, Bates and Wesleyan on Saturday, April 12 and then take on WPI on Sunday, April 13.

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