Wellesley has achieved yet another national accomplishment. This time on the water.
On May 28, 2016, Wellesley Blue Crew earned the College’s first NCAA Divison III National Championship becoming the first Wellesley team sport to win a national title. Wellesley’s Varsity Eight boat and Second Varsity Eight boat earned first and second place respectively in their races. These victories gave the Blue 40 points overall and secured the national championship over Bates, Williams, Pacific Lutheran, Washington College, and William Smith.
The national championship, however, was not Wellesley Crew’s first taste of success. This team has dominated the competition over the last several years, winning six New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championships and earning seven consecutive NCAA berths. This season was no different.
Wellesley swept the competition at the NEWMAC Finals on April 23, 2016. They not only earned first place in all of their races in the Finals, but they also won the Florence Jope Smith Cup, which is awarded to the team with the highest number of overall points throughout the season. Wellesley’s NEWMAC win secured their automatic bid into the NCAA National Championship for the seventh time in a row. At the NEWMAC Finals, Wellesley’s Meg Roberts ’16 and Stephanie Kim ’18 were named Rower and Coxswain of the Year for the conference.
On April 30, 2016, Wellesley Crew won the New England Rowing Championship (NERC), their first in program’s history. The Blue’s Varsity Eight, Second Varsity Eight, Third Varsity Eight, and Novice Eight all competed at this event, and together, the team earned the most overall points at the championship. Blue Crew member Olivia Duggan ’17 said the NERC championship pushed the team to dream even bigger. “When we won NERCs, I think everyone was hungry to accomplish more program firsts and believed that if we could do it at New Englands we could do it at NCAAs,” Duggan said.
Despite their success at NEWMACs and NERCs, Wellesley still had a lot to prove when they arrived at Lake Natoma in Gold River, California. Wellesley’s highest finish at NCAA’s leading up to this season was third place, but the team did not let that stop them. Heading into the NCAA competition, Duggan ’17 remarked, “We all realized that, regardless of ranking, we knew what we were capable of and we were going to go out there, trust our training, and row as hard as we could with and for each other.”
The camaraderie on this team was unstoppable. Although only 18 members of the team competed in the NCAA Championships, the victory celebrated the hard work of the crew team’s 40 other members during the season. In retrospect, Emilia Ball ’19 believes that the entire team’s intensity and competitive spirit pushed them to succeed this season. “Everyone on this team balances competitiveness with supporting each other,” she said. In addition to winning the National Championship this season, the Novice boat went undefeated in all of their races and rowers in all three Varsity boats improved their times throughout the season.
The team maintains the mantra, “Any seat, any boat, any day,” which means that any member of the team can be called upon to row in any boat and push their teammates to perform their best at any moment throughout the season. This national championship represented the result of months of tough practices and sweet victories. “The national championship is a result of the relentless hard work of each and every member of the squad all year long, not just those who raced in California. Our team had so much depth and every last athlete constantly pushed each other to be better,” said Duggan ’17.
The Wellesley Crew team had quite the season this spring, but they are ready to get back on the water and defend their title, starting with practices this week. As Ball ’19 remarked on the season ahead of her, “We have a target on our back now, but here at Wellesley, we thrive on that competition.” The Crew team has decided that they want to make this season a personal best. To Duggan ’17, accomplishing the team’s personal best requires “executing every step along the way leading up to NCAAs better than we have before by supporting each other, pushing past out limits, and never settling.” We look forward to seeing the Crew compete again this season and we congratulate them on their tremendous success this past spring.