Rowing Slides Under the Radar
By JONATHAN WIGGINTON
On any given day, screams of encouragement and motivation can be heard from the far-end of the basement weight room in Goolrick. These noises are coming from the rowing team, a group of athletes who let loose during training and competition.
The Mary Washington rowing teams have been a varsity sport on campus for the past 10 years, after a long stint as just a club. Since their shift from club to varsity, the nation has taken note: in 2007, the women finished 7th in the nation, after a trip to the NCAA Championships that same year.
Coach Richard Wilson took over the team last fall, after 5-year Head Coach Phil Schmehl moved on to Marietta College. Previously, Wilson was the women’s head coach at Niagara University in New York, as well as a coach for a high school in the Buffalo area. Wilson is the third coach in the program’s history, and he is both the men’s and women’s coach, something that is increasingly unique.
“It is not typical to have one head coach for two programs [like UMW]. It is usually one for men and one for women,” Wilson said. He went on to say that Division III teams used to be this way, but nowadays, even DIII teams are becoming more and more specialized.
The team’s water training occurs at the Hope Springs Marina in Stafford, but they hope by fall 2010 to have a dock constructed and ready for use on the Rappahannock River, which would make traveling for practice much easier.
On the surface, rowing is very different than other mainstream sports here on campus and across the country, but after listening to rowers, the basics are the same.
“I think the best thing [about rowing] is the knowledge that each person in the boat shares those same pains, struggles and successes as everyone else,” junior Stephanie Lefferts said. “We don’t give up because we know the person behind us won’t give up, so we pull hard for our teammates.”
All the best teams in history have had a team-first mentality, and Lefferts’ statement echoes a level of dedication and teamwork necessary for any team, in any sport, if the ultimate goal is success and winning.
When asked about his goals for the two teams this season, Wilson’s main goal is focusing on getting faster and faster. Everything else, according to him, will fall into place. However, he concluded with one expectation of his rowers.
“All you can do is go as fast as you can—everyday.”
While this year’s teams are very strong, Coach Wilson is optimistic about next year, despite losing the experience and leadership of many seniors. Wilson said all of his underclassmen are very strong and capable.
While competitions for the rowing teams are held only a handful of times throughout the spring semester, their training and hard work often goes unnoticed by people on campus at UMW. However, the fact that Mary Washington knows very little about the rowing teams does not go unnoticed by the rowers themselves.
“While I can’t blame the faculty for not wanting to drive to another state to watch an 8-minute race, it would be nice for them to show their recognition of the rowing team’s hard work in some other way, just every once in a while,” Lefferts said.
The next chance to come out and support the rowing team will be at the Occoquan Sprints regatta on March 28 in Lorton—25 minutes north on I-95. So if you’re looking for something to do on a Sunday morning, head over to Lorton and cheer for our rowers.