When the University of Mary Washington crew team took to the water Oct. 7, the season was beginning with a new sense of purpose.
The team had avoided a demotion from varsity status and with 26 combined freshmen between the men’s and women’s teams, a squad with less fortitude would have struggled to find an identity.
The Eagles were also practicing on new waters this year at Hope Springs Marina on Aquia Creek, located less than 20 minutes from UMW.
Sophomore men’s captain Daniel Smith is pleased with the venue so far.
“It’s working really well,” he said. “It’s about the same distance away as Lake of the Woods. There has been more boat traffic than the last location, but it hasn’t been a problem so far.”
Sunday’s Occoquan Challenge showed a team who looked comfortable in their new home, as the women’s varsity eight finished in second, their varsity four finished third, and the men’s varsity four finished 13th out of 20.
The women’s eight finished with a time of 18:10.39, the women’s four finished at 21:40, and the men’s four finished their event with a time of 17:44.33.
Junior women’s captain Julie Milam was pleased with her team’s performance on Sunday.
“We have way more focus this year,” she said. “A lot of girls are coming in with experience from other sports, so they are definitely determined. A lot of our freshmen are already breaking records on the 20 minute tests, so we are all really excited.”
Smith was equally optimistic about what he has seen from the men’s team.
“I think we’re doing really well, all things considered,” he said. “This was only the fifth time our boat had rowed together as a team, and it seems like every time we get out there, it seems like it’s our best outing, so we are constantly improving. We are pretty well on pace.”
Head coach Phil Schmehl had nothing but good things to say about the entire roster.
“It was very inspiring to watch these kids persevere through all the adversity,” he said. “They’ve really done an amazing job, and made great changes with their fitness. We’re doing a great job of setting goals and figuring out exactly what we need to do to get our speed up for the spring season.”
Schmehl added that the support from the school has been just as helpful.
“We are so thankful for all of the positive press, be it from the school, the local papers, or DC news stations, it has been such a huge help to know that we have that support,” he said.
The team will look to carry this optimism over to the Occoquan Chase Regatta on Oct. 14 in Occoquan, Va.