Women’s crew finishes off regular season strong ahead of New England Championships

The women's crew team rows against Middlebury College on Malden River on April 16. Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily

The women’s crew team finished its final weekend of regular season competition this week with a pair of strong wins. The team won two out of three races to beat Middlebury in a head-to-head event on Saturday, continuing its dominance on the Malden River this season before coming in first out of five teams on Sunday to win the Bernard Brown Cup again.

Saturday was Senior Day for Tufts crew, and outgoing rowing director Gary Caldwell, who is retiring after serving as the head of Tufts rowing for 26 years, was also honored with the dedication of a boat named after him at the team’s final home event of the season, featuring bright sunshine but a strong headwind that slowed all boats down significantly. 

The Jumbo varsity eight jumped out to a quick lead against the Middlebury Panthers, handling the winds better than their opponents. Tufts coasted to a 36-second victory, posting a time of 7:10.64, more than a minute slower than its times in all of its three races the previous weekend.

The second varsity eight was hampered by multiple substitutions from the third varsity eight, as several regulars sat out injured. They fell to Middlebury by just over 24 seconds, struggling with the heavy winds more than their opponents.

The most impressive and dominant victory of the day came from the novice eight, a collection of first-year rowers. Rowing together for the first time, the Jumbos cruised to a nearly 45-second victory.

“[The NESCAC opponents we face] are among the top-ranked D3 schools in the country,” tri-captain and first varsity eight coxswain Kellie King said. “Every stroke we take on the water during practice counts for something.”

“We are really coming together as a team and look forward to improving even more,” first-year Nat Lowenstein said. “We are still expecting more wins.”

Sunday brought more success for the team. In one of the team’s biggest tests of the season, the Jumbos traveled to Worcester, Mass. to race two ranked opponents, No. 10 WPI and No. 15 William Smith, as well as Skidmore and Clark, for the Bernie Brown Cup.

It was a beautiful day for racing and Tufts made the most of it. Tufts’ first varsity eight rolled to a first place finish with a time of 6:48.1, a clean six seconds ahead of second place William Smith, to take the cup. With the win, Tufts has now won nine of the 14 races in the Bernie Brown series. 

The hosts showed their depth, though, as WPI boats won the second and third varsity eight races, with the Tufts boats coming in second in both, though the results didn’t affect the overall cup win.

The race gave the Jumbos important practice on Lake Quinsigamond, where the New England Championships will be held on April 30. Tufts will also face WPI and William Smith there, so the win over both teams will give the first varsity eight squad confidence.

“[We] performed well this weekend in varying conditions and against teams that we’ll be seeing again in our upcoming championship races,” King said. “We were excited for our wins.”

Tufts has just over a week left to prepare for the championships, and the team will rely on a collection of experience, leadership and young talent that has given them depth and speed all season long. The Jumbos have seen steady improvement all year, so their momentum has been building.

“We’re not heading to these championship races thinking that they’re going to be a breeze, we want to do everything we can to make sure we’re as competitive as possible,” King said.

The Jumbos will use the off-weekend to rest and will devote next week to fine-tuning their stroke.

“No matter how strong you are, one’s technique can always be improved upon,” King said. “This applies to both rowers and coxswains. Every day is a process of figuring out how to reinforce the good technique and excise the bad.”