April 11, 2006

Crew paddles to notable showing in spring season debuts: Sports Shorts 4/11/06

They’ve been reduced to driving 40 minutes just to get “home.” But even the challenges of a vagabond existence haven’t stopped crew.

Despite having to contend with the loss of their practice facility, the Maroons club team has battled through to earn respectable finishes in their first two regattas of the spring season. The men’s novice four boat (8:41.71) ran roughshod over Northwestern to earn the only win for either squad in the Chicago City Championships at Skokie Saturday. In their season opener, the men earned a third-place standing in three out of their four races to climb to third overall while the women rode a surprisingly strong varsity eight showing to capture a sixth-place finish at the University Rowing Association Regatta in Pittsburgh April 2.

The club’s workout sites at Crowley and Eleanor Street in Chicago have been shut down due to the high toxicity of the soil in the area. Both may be unusable for as long as two years. While the Maroons are anticipating being able to set up at the Sun-Times landing within the next two weeks, the best available practice location in the meantime has been at Skokie. The distance has led to numerous transportation issues, limiting time on the water.

“I think we missed a week of water practice before this meet,” women’s president second-year Emily Tancer said. “It really hurt our ability to work on our technique, and affected our results.”

The layoffs didn’t prove to be their total undoing, as the novice four finished almost 55 seconds ahead of the Wildcats (9:36.65). In other men’s action, the varsity four crossed the line in 7:15, ten seconds behind Northwestern, while the varsity eight wound up 25 seconds back in 6:59. The women’s novice four recorded an 8:56.79 mark against the Wildcats’ 8:39.38, while the varsity eight nailed an 8:23.01 behind the Northwestern boat’s 7:42.59. Lawrence was a late scratch to the meet, while North Park had a scheduling conflict.

“We were hoping to show Northwestern that we are competitive, get them to take us more seriously, and get some race experience,” Tancer said. “I think this race is not something we’re going to look to as a sign of our abilities. The novices have been having to race varsity, and it’s very difficult for them.”

Nearly three-fourths of the rowers on the women’s team are in their first competitive season with the squad. The youngsters had seen their first action the weekend before against the rowing teams of six other UAA schools. The varsity eight (fifth/7:43.2) built a substantial lead over Brandeis (8:10.0) in their event and was less than 16 seconds behind Carnegie Mellon (7:27.8). The women’s novice four matched that standing (8:16.9), while the varsity four crossed the line in sixth (8:40.5). The squad (4.5 points) was just one point behind NYU (5.5) in fifth.

Their male compatriots (30) were gapped by powerful Wash U (98) and Rochester (92) clubs, but were in third well ahead of Carnegie (23), enabling them to clinch their best-ever finish at the URA regatta. The men’s varsity eight had shown signs of emerging stronger

in the fall and continued that trend with a bronze performance (6:56.9), as did the varsity (7:18.7) and lightweight (7:47.3) four-man boats. The men’s novice four came home in fourth (8:18.0) while holding off a challenge from the Tartans (8:31.3).

“Prior to this fall, the team was not competitive in the eight. This was thought to be a result of a lack of sufficient depth, but this year, with even fewer rowers than in the past, the team has managed to achieve better results not only in the eight, but also in the fours,” men’s captain Danny Wasserman said.

“The URAs are a very good indicator of where we are and where we can go. We’re only going to get faster from here,” Tancer said.

Everyone will get a chance to catch their breaths this weekend before both teams head to the Midwest Rowing Championships in Madison April 22. The bulk of the squads will be making their debut at the event, which was blown out last year.