Despite tough weekend, Jumbos start spring season strong on Malden River

Tufts women's rowers launch at Tufts' crew meet with Hamilton, Coast Guard, Trinity, and Mount Holyoke at William Shoemaker Boathouse on April 3. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The No. 7 women’s rowing team, after kicking off its spring season with races on April 2 on the Malden River, faced top-ranked crews from Bates College, Wesleyan University and Wellesley College in a home regatta Saturday at the Shoemaker Boathouse. These visiting teams — now ranked in the top three spots, respectively, in this week’s Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association poll — swept the Jumbos in every event.

On Sunday, though, Tufts took on Amherst at home, rebounding from tough losses the day before with a decisive sweep of two races.

Walking away from a day of losses on Saturday, the women’s rowing team returned to the Malden River to face the Amherst Purple & White team head-to-head with greatly improved results. Tufts regained its composure Sunday, with the first varsity eight clocking in at 7:26.36 to Amherst’s 7:30.17 and the second varsity eight winning their event by a margin of 17 seconds.

In the first contest of the weekend the day before, the first varsity eight entry — comprised of sophomore stroke Emma Conroy, first-year Libby Lichter, senior Leah Fortson, senior tri-captain Rachel Siegler, junior Natalia Kastenberg, senior tri-captain Kate Ainsworth, first-year Dana Brooks, sophomore bow Arielle Mann and sophomore coxswain Annelise Ryan — took on Bates in its preliminary heat.

Surging ahead of the Jumbos, the Bates Bobcats had a definitive victory before the halfway 1,000-meter mark, eventually crossing the finish line several boat lengths in front of the first varsity eight.

“Bates is consistently fast every year, so we knew going into [our race] that it would be challenging,” Ryan said. “But I think we rowed pretty well and found a good swing and rhythm during our piece.”

The crew’s loss in its preliminary heat against Bates pitted them against the other losing crew of the morning, the Wellesley team, in a head-to-head race in the petite final. However, at the 500-meter mark, Wellesley began inching away from the first varsity eight, eventually distancing itself a boat length from Tufts (7:07.8) halfway through the course and finishing with a time of 6:56.8.

The second varsity eight was comprised of first-year stroke Miranda Finestone, sophomore Lienne Ng, first-year Madeline Orzeske, sophomore Sera Busse, sophomore Haley Short, first-year Tobey Solomon-Auger, sophomore Maude Plucker, sophomore bow Mary Gusentine and senior coxswain Abby Perelman.

Unfortunately for the Jumbos, the results from the second varsity eight event echoed that of the first varsity boat — a disappointing defeat to Bates in the preliminary heat, followed by a loss to Wesleyan University (7:20.5) in the petite final by a margin of four seconds.

In the third varsity petite final, Tufts fell to Wesleyan again, this time by a difference of over 30 seconds. The Jumbos were also bested by the Wellesley Blue (9:21.3 to 9:45.1) and the Wesleyan Cardinals (8:36.4 to 9:32.9) in the two novice four races.

“As a team, we’re learning to make the most of what we have and learn from our mistakes,” Siegler said. “That’s when we’re going to be strongest and see the biggest increase in our results.”

The weekend before, Tufts opened the spring season with a set of mostly positive results in another home regatta. Tufts posted a slew of head-to-head wins against Trinity, Hamilton and Mount Holyoke College, winning one out of two of its first varsity eight races. After battling defending national champion Trinity to the end, narrowing the Trinity Bantams’ lead and coming up just short in the end, Tufts lost by 3.8 seconds in the first varsity eight race.

In the second round, though, the Jumbos took down the Hamilton Continentals, who had beaten out Tufts for fifth place at the NCAA championships last spring. Extending the half-length lead they had built over the first half of the race, the Jumbos ended up winning by almost a full boat length at 4.1 seconds.

The second varsity eight boat kicked off the season in full stride, picking up two wins against Mount Holyoke and Trinity. They outdid Mount Holyoke by an impressive 18.4-second margin and then beat out Trinity by over six seconds.

In the final competitions of the race, the third varsity eight boat split its races, falling in the first race to Trinity by just over four seconds and beating Hamilton in the next with a 7:32.9 time over the Continentals’ 7:39.3.

Following the most recent win against the Purple & White, the Jumbos hope to continue on their upward swing in their last home regatta against Middlebury College on April 16. After the home regatta, which will also feature Tufts’ Senior Day, all crews will report to Worcester, Mass. to compete in the Brown and Baker Cups on Lake Quinsigamond against WPI, William Smith, Skidmore and others.

Women’s crew, following one of its most successful seasons in recent years, heads into the final events of the season looking strong and ranked as one of the top teams in Div. III.