First-years fly at 52nd Head of the Charles

The women’s rowing team made the short trip to the Charles River for the 52nd Head of the Charles Regatta this weekend. The historic regatta is the biggest of the year for many clubs, and it is the nation’s largest annual regatta with upwards of two thousand entries this year. The Charles features top college teams from all divisions, high school teams, prestigious rowing clubs from around the world and elder entries for adult rowers in both alumni and masters divisions.

The women’s team had two entries at the Head of the Charles, both varsity eights, that raced in the women’s collegiate division.

The first varsity eight featured all three captains — senior Natalia Kastenberg and juniors Hayley Cohen and Emma Conroy — as well as junior Sera Busse and sophomore Libby Lichter, who also raced in the first eight last year. Rounding out the boat were first-year rowers Prairie Hammer, Camden Myles and Emma Mitchell-Sparke and coxswain Jill Armenia.

Conroy stroked for the boat and the Jumbos finished seventh in the 28-boat division. The top half of the finishers automatically qualify for the Head of the Charles next year, a feat that this boat accomplished with room to spare. Tufts’ time of 18.52.79 was just one second behind Wellesley College and two seconds clear of eighth place finishers Grand Valley University. As is often the case, the ultra competitive NESCAC stuffed the top of the leader board. Wesleyan won the race, while Williams and Bates finished third and fourth, respectively.

“My boat was pretty happy with our race,” Conroy said. “We really felt like we gave it our all; even though we didn’t have a great sprint, we kept our energy up throughout the race.”

The most important factor for all of the competitors this year was managing the tumultuous Boston weather. Boats had to face occasional heavy rain and consistent blustering winds, which made the coxswain’s steering job harder and threw off the pace of the boat and the tempo for all of the rowers to follow.

Despite this, Conroy said that the Jumbos handled the inclement weather well.

“I think the whole team planned ahead really well for the extremely windy conditions and really thought about how to combat that,” she said.

It takes a great deal of practice and preparation to remain in sync and focused throughout the nearly 20 minute race under such bothersome conditions.

Tufts was one of three teams — Bates and Wellesley being the others — that entered two teams in the women’s collegiate eights division, an accomplishment in itself. The second varsity eight finished 24th with a time of 20.45.65. They were only one second behind the University of Illinois and finished 25 seconds ahead of SUNY Geneseo.

The second boat, coxswained by senior Jenny Skerker, was comprised of sophomore stroke Bibi Lichauco, first-years Grace Fabrycky and Grace Schumaker, sophomores Miranda Finestone and Nat Lowenstein and juniors Lienne Ng, Arielle Mann and Haley Short.

“I think our boat felt successful after today,” Lowenstein said. “Coach [Brian Dawe] always says that you cannot teach a team to race, but rather you can teach them the skills so that they can go out there and give it their all. Today we were able to take those skills taught to us and execute them in a race.”

Dawe said he was satisfied with the team’s performance under the difficult conditions.

“It is always good to have women who are willing and ready to race, because without that attitude, we become complacent and stagnant in our growth,” Dawe said.

This was the first time any members of Tufts’ second eight had raced at the Head of the Charles collegiately, an honor for any rower.

More than just a result, the Head of the Charles is a regatta that few ever get to experience and is one of the most exciting moments of any rower’s career, according to Lowenstein.

“I have never been at a regatta with more spectators and rowers from all levels and all over the world,” Lowenstein said. “[We] were so lucky to have gotten the chance to participate in this amazing race this weekend.”

Conroy agreed that the experience was inspirational for all of its competitors.

“Rowing in the Charles is definitely a high — it’s inspiring to be racing with Olympians around the world and to feel like you’re inspiring high schoolers at the same time,” she said. “Having people cheering you on the whole time is amazing, and you really feel like you’re part of a big rowing community which I love.”

The Jumbos race next on Sunday at the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga Springs, NY to finish up their fall season.