May 9, 2006

Crew makes waves at MACRA Regatta: Sports Shorts 5/9/06

Racing with boats lent by the competition generally isn’t considered a formula for success. Yet in last Saturday’s Mid-America Collegiate Rowing Association Regatta, it proved to be just what crew needed to catapult straight to the finals.

The women’s novice boat followed this unusual recipe for greatness for a fourth-place finish in the top-flight race, the only squad among six boats sent to place. In addition to the novice boat, the women sent an additional varsity crew. On the men’s ride, Chicago entered two young boats, a lightweight and a novice.

Things got off to an ominous start for the female youngsters. In the first 250 meters of their first race at the regatta, one of their rowers “caught a crab,” mispaddling in such a manner as to cause all the oars to tangle. It’s usually a serious problem, and the members of the four-person women’s novice team assumed they were through.

“We’re thinking it’s the last race of the season and we’ve messed it up in the first 30 seconds,” second-year Jessica Wright said.

Under the expert guidance of first-year coxswain Liz Chen, the Maroons were able to overcome the 10-second arrest caused by the move. They passed two of their prime rivals before the finish and advanced to the championship round.

The finals, though, were three hours later. With three of the four members rowing in an additional two races during that period, and with the slowest preliminary s`howing of any of the finalists—9:03, not exactly anything to write home about,” according to Wright—the race didn’t look promising.

Fortunately, overcoming obstacles proved to be the rookie boat’s forte. The team managed to not only pass rival Ohio University, but also to cut an impressive 35 seconds off their earlier finish, leaving them in fourth place with a respectable time of 8:28. Considering the odds, the outcome was an impressive victory for the team.

“We’re the dark horse—we had to borrow boats from other teams and carry our own oars with us on the boat,” said second-year captain Nora Granville.

With competition that featured powerhouses Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio, Ohio State, Northwestern, and Cleveland State, the organizers of the regatta seemed to be conspiring to make it an especially difficult race for the men’s team.

“No one made it to finals, though they did have some very good races,” second-year club president Emily Tancer said.

Facing many of the same schools, the women fared better overall. Up against some of their toughest competition—Northwestern and North Park—the novices overcame their lack of resources en route to finals.

“We’re a pretty scrappy team because we always have to borrow sites and boats,” Granville said. “I can’t imagine being any scrappier and still being able to row.”