No. 12 Tufts hosted some of the best Div. III teams in the country — including No. 2 Bates, No. 7 Wellesley and No. 5 Wesleyan — on Saturday on the Malden River. Though the Jumbos came up short in every race they competed in, rowing against such potent opponents provided valuable experience in the season run-in.
“This weekend was a big weekend for us because it was some of the fastest teams in Div. III, so it was definitely tough competition,” senior co-captain Miranda Finestone, who competed in the first varsity eight (1V8), said. “It was kind of a big learning weekend.”
The 1V8,2V8 and the 3V8 all raced against Bates, the reigning NCAA champion, in Tufts’ first races of the day.
Bates’ 1V8 finished in 6:46.5, ahead of Tufts’ boat at 6:58.7. In the 2V8, Bates just edged out Tufts with a time of 6:48.7 to Tufts’ 6:52.8. The Tufts 2V8 actually had a better time than the 1V8. In the 3V8, Bates defeated Tufts by 25 seconds, 7:12.4 to 7:37.5.
With their losses in the first round, the Jumbos headed to the consolation bracket.
For the 1V8 consolation race, Tufts faced off against Wellesley, whose boat finished in 6:54.8 ahead of Tufts at 7:15.3. The Tufts 2V8 also lost to Wellesley, but only by a margin of 2.4 seconds: Wellesley finished at 7:08.2 while Tufts finished at 7:10.6. The 3V8 also had a close consolation race against Wesleyan, but the Cardinals edged out the Jumbos 7:28.3 to 7:31.9.
Tufts also had a 4V8 that lost to Wellesley, 7:18.5 to 7:22.6, in its only race of the day.
In the week leading up to the race, there were several shuffles among the boats, especially between the 1V8 and 2V8. According to senior co-captain Libby Lichter, who had competed in the 1V8 before but was in the 2V8 this weekend, both boats were showing good speed in practice, which was evident as the 2V8 put up faster times than the 1V8 in both the semifinals and consolation rounds.
“For two practices in a row, the boat that raced as the 1V over the weekend was just faster, convincingly so,” Lichter said. “It is a sign of a healthy program, as frustrating as it can be. Imagine that — what a great problem to have. You have so much speed and you don’t know where to put it. There definitely was some shuffling around, which happens in any good program. As confusing as it can be, I don’t think anybody was really upset about it.”
Finestone was also positive about the roster changes, explaining that the team needs to continue to recognize their strengths and weaknesses as championship season approaches.
“We’re still kind of at the point in the season where there is some shuffling, so we’re still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” Finestone said. “It was a little bit like an experimentation weekend. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t, but it was a good first step to figuring out where we need to be in the next couple weeks.”
Saturday’s regatta was also Senior Day for Tufts, honoring the six seniors on the squad. Lauren Drohosky, Finestone, Bibi Lichauco, Lichter, Erika Madrian and Miriam Weiss comprise the senior class that graduates in just a few weeks.
“It was kind of wild to realize that that was the last time I would be competing on those waters as a collegiate athlete,” Lichter said. “We had a really nice little gathering of the whole team, and the coaches said some nice things, and some parents made some really beautiful cakes, so it was a really nice day.”
Though they did not win any races, the Jumbos now know where they stand in relation to the other top schools in the country. Ultimately, the team hopes to place well at the National Invitational Rowing Championships (the NESCAC championship equivalent) on May 12, and perhaps even qualify for the NCAA championship. Qualification for the NCAA meet is largely decided by at-large, committee-decided bids, so the Jumbos will need to perform at their best in their remaining races if they want a chance to qualify.
“I am really happy that even though the results did not turn out the way we wanted to, there’s still so much drive,” Lichter said. “We’re ready to race again, we’re ready to get after the next one.”
The Jumbos will get on the water again on Sunday at the Brown Cup, hosted by Worcester Polytechnic Institute at Lake Quinsigamond, in Worcester, Mass.