Crew medals at Head of the Charles

By Danny Wasserman

Endless grueling workouts, pratice at 5 a.m., and short people telling you loudly to stroke. These are the hardships that crew teams endure.

During the fall season, regattas consist of 5,000-meter courses (slightly over three miles each). Chicago’s first regatta was at Des Moines, Iowa on September 28, and for many of the team’s members, it was their first 5,000-meter race. Despite the difficulty posed by continuously strong winds, the men’s novice boat placed second behind the University of Minnesota by less than two seconds.

On October 5, it was off to Wisconsin for the Tail of the Fox Regatta, where the U of C not only won second place in two events, but also saw another strong performance by its men’s novice boat, which took first place—defeating second-place Marquette University by nearly a minute.

One week later, the women’s team went up against the Universities of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kansas in the Head of the Rock Regatta in Rockford, Illinois, while the men’s team stayed in Chicago to prepare for the biggest two-day regatta in the world—the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston on October 18.

Coxswain Jodi Wu led fourth-year men’s captain Mike Kelly, GSB student Doug Rathburn, third-year Jeff Hreben, and second-year Danny Wasserman in a competition with teams from all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

The race turned out to be a historic one for the club as they won a medal in this regatta for the first time ever, finishing 5th out of 41 teams in their event and gaining automatic re-entry to the race next fall.

“Medaling at the Head of the Charles is the single greatest achievement of rowing at this University. It was a special time. They had a perfect race,” said men’s head coach Jessica Vandevusse.

Both the men’s and women’s teams finish their season on October 26 in Elkhart, Indiana.

Next year the U of C will send boats from both the men’s and women’s teams to compete in both the club events and also in the championship men’s event against the U.S. Men’s Team, Harvard, Yale, and the German National Team.

The crew team recent success is all the more special because the team runs on a very tight budget yet still manages to be more competitive than many other clubs.

“The crew team would not be where it is without the incredible efforts of its head coaches, U of C alums [Vandevusse] and [women’s coach] Chris Stanek,” said fourth-year club president Emily Gorman

Both coaches volunteer their time every day of the week to help the team improve.

Assisting Stanek and Vandevusse are Antonio Gisbert and U of C law student Eric Mersmann, both of whom help build the club’s future by coaching the novice rowers. The team added the novice coaches to the staff for the first time last season, and the results are very encouraging. The 2002 novice team members now account for the majority of the varsity team, and this year’s novice teams are larger than before.

Having spent so much time together on the water and on road trips, the members of the team have become a very tight-knit community.

“Crew gave me a second family. The people I’ve met have been the best friends I’ve made at this school,” said fourth-year women’s captain Elsa Korol.

The team will continue to practice throughout the fall and winter before returning to competition again in the spring.