This weekend, the women’s rowing team will head to Cambridge to compete in the Head of the Charles, the world’s largest two-day rowing event. While the NCAA season does not begin for the Red until the spring, the squad still has a group of races this fall, with the Head of the Charles being the first and arguably most important.
However, there are some key differences between races in the fall and spring. The biggest difference is that the fall races are much longer — a 5,000 meter course compared to just a 2,000 meter course later this year. Therefore, the Head of the Charles is really a place for the Red to show off its stamina and endurance, rather than focusing on its sprint abilities.
“The mentality is to listen, to stay focused on what is going on inside our boat and [to] stay together,” said senior Kelly Albanir. “The Charles is a really exciting event and there is a lot going on that could easily distract us, so we stay internally focused and listen to our coxswain for updates. She will tell us if we are closing the margin on the team in front of us. We can also see the team behind us so our goal is to push away from them and make the margin between us larger.”
According to senior Ellen Barrett, the Charles is a challenging course. The team has to prepare to face rough water and wind, as well as a large group of strong competitors. Nonetheless, the team is excited for the event and the challenges it brings.
“The Charles is an exciting event and experience unlike any other race,” said head coach Liz Dennison. “The opportunity to race at the Charles is something that motivates the athletes all summer. The coaches set standards for the team to hit in order to attend the race this year, and the athletes were able to hit them early on this fall. The athletes … have had some great practices leading into the weekend. Our fall break served them well with respect to recovery, both mentally and physically.”
In preparation for the race, the women have been focusing on their varsity eight boat, as well as mixing and matching different combinations of women in the smaller boats in order to see who meshes well together and what works best for the team overall. In terms of workout routine, the women have been practicing six days a week both out on the lake, on the erg and in the weight room.
“Between doing pieces, seat racing and watching video, we are feeling pretty prepared,” Barrett said.
In terms of overall goals, the Red is mainly looking to get faster on the water before coming inside for winter training. The fall season goes by fast so the team must make use of every outdoor practice it has. Gaining momentum and speed in the fall ideally carries over into the spring, when the team will be competing in NCAA races.
“Fall racing is very different from spring racing, so it is a good chance to get in a lot of meters to gain fitness,” Albanir said. “It also gives the coaches a chance to try out different combinations in boats — in the spring, we can only row on the water once it becomes liquid again which tends to be a few days before our first race. A few days is not enough time to completely make up a new, effective, tested combination in a boat, so the fall is a good chance to try out possible line ups.”
Dennison also explained that the squad remains focused on future races, such as the Princeton Chase.
“The entire team is focusing on the Princeton Chase, which is on Nov. 1, where we will race our full squad against the other top DI rowing programs in the country,” Dennison said. “Our fall program and racing is focused on building a base from which to work to be our fastest come May at our championship races.”