Jumbos strive to prove top national ranking reflects ability on the water

Tufts was able to defeat Amherst by 22.4 seconds in its race on Sunday. Courtesy Anna Lindgren-Streicher

The women’s crew team went into last weekend’s races with a new sense of confidence as it moved up in the national rankings from No. 11 to No. 3. Its weekend of racing, however, ended with mixed results.

When the Jumbos first saw their new position in the rowing rankings, they were both excited and in disbelief. They were, however, also aware that the most difficult part would be maintaining this ranking.

“It was incredible to be ranked that high, but we also knew we’d have to fight to stay there,” junior Emily Eickhoff said.

The jump in the rankings definitely shocked other teams, but the Jumbos prepared to prove that they belong there.

Coming off a huge tie against current No. 2 Trinity on April 4, Tufts knew that it could compete against any other school’s boats. The team also anticipated that in its races this weekend, they would have huge targets on their backs, which for them seemed to be exciting yet terrifying at the same time.

“I think that this early in the season, the rankings are fluid because boat speeds are [also fluid]. However, the advancement does, without a doubt, show that we are capable of being at the top of the rankings and is motivation to work especially hard over the next few weeks in order to remain a competitive team,” junior Emma Peabody said.

Tufts began its day on Saturday with a solid row against No. 7 Wesleyan.

“The 1v race against Wesleyan was certainly a battle. They were ahead, then we were ahead, then they would make a move and pull ahead, and so on.  But after about 1600 meters of this head-to-head competition, I think the confidence that we were capable of winning, and consequential mental toughness, secured our lead across the finish line,” Peabody said.

In this first varsity race, it seemed like the Jumbos used their new-found confidence to help pull them through the finish line with success.

“We knew that the mental game would be a key component of success, and in the 1v’s race against Wesleyan we were able to stay aggressive under pressure,” Eickhoff said.

Without their strong mental toughness, the Jumbos might not have been able to start off their weekend with such success. In the second round, however, the Jumbos faced the No. 6 Wellesley College Blue and were not able to top them. The weather proved to be a factor that the Jumbos were unable to overcome, ultimately leading to their loss.

“Wellesley is a very strong crew both in fitness and technique,” Peabody said. “There was also an extremely strong head wind that really threw us off, so once Wellesley took the lead, we had a hard time realizing our rhythm and speed in the rough conditions and were unable to catch them.”

Eickhoff agreed that the weather conditions played a role but acknowledged that Wellesley rowed better and deserved to win. In the future, the Jumbos hope to be prepared for all types of conditions to keep their mental strength intact.

Heading into Sunday’s race against Amherst, Tufts was not sure what type of competition the Lord Jeffs would bring to the table, as this was the first year that Amherst had raced in eights.

“It’s likely that they’ll have a few tough years while they’re transitioning their program into eights. They rowed quite well but didn’t have the acceleration on the drive that would allow them to surge forward,” Eickhoff said.

Even though the Jumbos were exhausted from the day before, they were able to compete well and race successfully. The varsity and second varsity eights were able to beat Amherst, both by more than 20 seconds.

“There was still a lot of wind on Sunday, and we took the opportunity to actively make and execute some necessary changes from how we rowed in similar conditions the day before,” Peabody said.

In addition, they maintained controlled, soft, timely catches even when the wind pushed the oar in the opposite direction, which is something they corrected from their previous races. It was rewarding for the Jumbos to be able to correct their mistakes from the day before and see the benefits right away.

This week Tufts is gearing up for its race against Middlebury at 10 a.m. on Saturday and against WPI, RIT and William Smith on Sunday.

“This week in practice, we’ll be focusing on driving the boat forward together, giving it life to surge forward on each stroke,” Eickhoff said.