The women’s rowing team began its season with a strong showing against Syracuse on Saturday, March 31, defeating one of its major rivals in every single rowing event. Since beating Syracuse, the Red has worked hard to maintain its momentum and to attempt to achieve the team’s overall goal — going to the NCAA tournament at the end of the spring.
While it is the spring season that qualifies a team for the NCAA tournament, preparation for the tournament really begins during the fall season when athletes train to meet their own personal fitness goals.
“The fall is a lot more about rewarding hard work,” said head coach Hilary Gehman. “You’ve got to love hard work. You can’t be afraid of it, and you can’t shy away from it.”
According to Gehman, practice does not consist of just strength training and conditioning. There are other important factors the team works on daily.
“We’re focusing a lot on how to really fine tune the recovery in between races,” Gehman said. “Nutrition and hydration are very important.”
Recovery will be very important for the Red during this spring season. Most of the meets the team will race in are in a “double duel” format, where the Red faces one team initially while two other teams race each other. The winners from each race goes head-to-head in a final race, as the losers from each race face off in a consolation match. In either scenario, the Red competes twice in one day, which is why recovery is such an important thing to practice, according to the coach.
“We want to try to be prepared for two races in one day before we have to really peak, which is at Ivy League championships,” Gehman said. “It is challenging, but it’s something that we train for.”
The Ivy League championships is the last major meet for the Red before the NCAA tournament. This is the first year that the Ivy League championships are being hosted, primarily because the system for qualifying for the NCAA tournament will change starting in 2013. It used to be that the Ivy League was part of the Eastern Sprints Rowing League, where selection to the NCAAs was based on a school’s performance in one of the five geographic qualifying regions, with Cornell competing in the Mid-Atlantic Region against schools like Syracuse. The change will be from that of a regional qualifier system to a conference automatic qualifier system. The five teams that win their conference will advance to the NCAA tournament and compete against 11 other teams invited to fill “at-large” positions.
According to senior captain Stephanie Lohberg, the Red will strive to place first in the Ivy League and advance to NCAAs automatically, but will also try to gain enough recognition to be invited as one of the “at-large” teams by racing and beating other out-of-conference teams. Lohberg says she is optimistic about the team’s chances, citing the Red’s preparation and ability to work hard as two of its most important qualities.
“We’ve been working on being clean and aggressive in our races,” Lohberg said. “At a certain point, it comes down to who is willing to fight for that extra inch.”
While the Red was denied an invitation to NCAAs last year, the team is determined to qualify to be invited to the tournament at the end of this year.
“We’re determined to win every race this season,” said senior captain Margaret Cook. “Our overall goal is to make it to NCAAs … We really want an invitation to compete.”