This past sunday, the Novice Men traveled to Fairfax Station, VA to take place in the Occoquan Sprints. Originally not scheduled, this squad chose to add this race as the Liberty and VT duels never manifested. It shows a wealth of commitment out of these new rowers to make such a sacrifice.
The Novice squad was split into two fours, as this is what they will probably race at SIRAs later this month. Unfortunately, with 16 entries into this event, time constraints forced the regatta organizers to have 3 heats only, no finals. Instead, the best time from these heats would be crowned the champion. This unorthodox set-up proved a poor decision as conditions and delay caused race officials to forgo starting blocks and shorten some races by a few hundred meters during the “floating starts” where boats are allowed to drift down the course until alignment among the crews is attained. Thus, the three heats were not equivalent and meaningful comparisons between the heats can not be made. However, within each of the three heats, the overall placement is accurate.
A four comprised of coxswain Katie Oberg, Stroke Scott Kleing, Marshall Irby, Adam Mullet, and Wills Plew-Ogan faced stiff competition from La Salle and Michigan. La Salle had just won the Murphy Cup (besting UVA and Bucknell in the process) in this event and Michigan is a large program that frequently medals at Dad Vails. The Tribe faced stiff winds and rough waters from an official boat’s wake, but was still able to edge Michigan (which may be a program first)! They held with La Salle until the final stretch when the Explorers took a big move, found another gear and opened up a lead. According to Novice Coach Mike Bayersdorfer, “Around 350 meters left [The Tribe] started clawing back and took back some of the distance La Salle had gained by the time they crossed the finish line.” That second place finish was also better than VCU, and Maryland.
In the next heat, the second four faced equally fast crews in UVA, Michigan’s “B” boat, and Grand Valley State. Coxswain Ni Querolo motivated Jack Bramley, Martin Liu, David Heras, and Jamal Usmani to a 4th place finish, a mere boat length off of Michigan’s B boat, and behind varsity program UVA and Grand Valley. Rowing way behind WM’s wake was other VA club programs JMU and VCU, finishing over 45 seconds behind WMRC.
The depth shown by the Novice Squad against rowing powerhouses is truly impressive. The combination of wind, wake, and poor regatta planning will serve as a huge learning experience for these new oarsmen. And their success against national competition in spite of such adversity only bodes well for future races.