Crews finish fall with substantial gains

The fall season may be over for the three Yale crew teams, but the heat is on to see who can gain the most speed on their opponents by the time racing starts again in the spring.

If the head racing season proved one thing to the Elis, it is that discipline and simple dedication to faster rowing will yield better results. Indeed, all three Yale programs made steady improvements throughout the season.

The women’s team, already proven at the national level, continued to gain on its chief opponents by finishing as the third collegiate crew at the Head of the Charles and pulling off a second place finish at the Nov. 13 Head of the Lake in Seattle, Wash., against the top West Coast teams.

The lightweight team, far from sitting on their 2005 national title, have displayed grit during the long fall season, taking first collegiate boat at the Head of the Charles and third at the Princeton Chase. But the men’s heavyweight rowers, under strong underclassman leadership, have rowed themselves to the biggest improvements, moving from sixth college team at the Head of the Charles to second at the Princeton Chase and gaining significant time on many EARC opponents.

This season’s success has encouraged all three teams to dig in for a winter of training. With the EARC Sprints on May 21 after only six weeks of racing, the crew teams must maximize the time they spend in the gym because the championship season is so much shorter.

The Sprints will be the focus for the heavyweights as they train on Payne Whitney’s erg machines and practice in the indoor rowing tank.

“The primary goal for me every year is to think about the eastern sprints,” heavyweight head coach John Pescatore said. “It is the first big championship and also the Ivy League championship.”

Captain John Petersen ’06 hopes to parley the team’s successful fall into a productive off-season. He said the week between the Head of the Charles and the Princeton Chase proved to be an eye-opener.

“The results from the Princeton Chase tell us two things: One, you can improve significantly in one week just by a commitment to better rowing, and two, we have a lot of ground to make up on the crews that were faster than us,” Petersen wrote in an e-mail. “[We can] never forget the crews that will undoubtedly be following very closely behind.”

One of the factors both he and Pescatore cited as a source of the team’s improvement is the dedication that the entire squad has shown to excellent rowing.

“The difference about this team is that every guy, to the man, is somebody who thinks of himself as a varsity boat mover,” Pescatore said. “They treat the idea of the team with great respect, they have accountability to it, and it is really important to [them].”

Team-building has also been a focus of the women’s team. This year’s crew has only five seniors, compared with 24 freshmen and sophomores.

“Every year with a new team, you have to learn to push each other every day,” captain Katie Curran ’06 said. “We have to expect more every year. The sport is evolving, and everyone’s getting faster.”

This year’s trip to Seattle for the Head of the Lake provided one more opportunity for the young squad to get quality racing experience before the spring. The Bulldogs will face many of the teams they saw last weekend again at the NCAA Championships. While pleased with their early success, Curran said that the team is still mindful of the work they will do this winter.

“I think we feel really good, but we know that we have a long way to go, just for the length of time until spring,” Curran said. “Now is just a time to get down to business and gain speed indoors.”

The lightweights, who have arguably had the most successful season with their win at the Head of the Charles, are equally wary of putting too much emphasis on their results from the fall, especially the drop-off they had the following week at Princeton.

“With so many boats finishing in such a tight margin, it’s extremely difficult to have two winning pieces,” captain Joe Fallon ’06 wrote in an e-mail. “During the fall, crews tend to pick up a lot of speed in a very short amount of time.”

The lightweights also hope to have a productive winter, as history has shown that the lightweight EARC is a very close league.

“The difference between winning and losing is more often than not less than 1 percent difference in time,” Fallon wrote. “It takes a perfect, if not near-perfect, performance to win.”

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