Rushing from the microeconomics lecture hall and grabbing a quick lunch at Commons, members of the heavyweight crew team are set to board their bus to the boathouse 20 minutes away.
Team members begin with a warmup run. Then, in groups of eight, they haul their boats into the water and begin paddling their eight-man boats.
But it is not as easy as it seems. With their coaches screaming through a megaphone for the next three hours, the Bulldogs practice routines. First they row in pairs, with the other six people in the boat resting. Then four people row while the other four boatsmen rest. Next, six Bulldogs row, before the entire boat finally rows together.
Head coach John Pescatore hopes the Bulldogs will be more in sync this year than they were last season. With four weeks of preseason training on the Housatonic River under their belts, the Bulldogs look to rebound from last year’s mediocre season when they start their autumn campaign on Oct. 11.
In addition to the usual physical and mental challenges of the preseason, the Bulldogs have also had to deal with a freak accident that seriously injured heavyweight team member Charlie Billington ’04. Billington sustained the injury when a lightweight crew boat ran into his single-man scull. The rubber ball that protects the bow of all crew boats came off the lightweight boat, and the bow slid up Billington’s boat, piercing his side and sending him into the water. Billington, who is expected to make a full recovery, is still at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
With Billington on the mend, the Bulldogs are hoping they can still perform up to their potential this fall. Last year, the Elis won just one race and struggled in their others. The Bulldogs also failed to challenge the Cantabs, who managed to sweep the annual Yale-Harvard Regatta on June 7 for a third consecutive year. Winning the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman races of the Regatta, the Cantabs finished the season ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“Last season was pretty tough for us. They [Harvard] were good, but we did not do well ourselves,” captain Andrew Brennan ’04 said. “But we are very excited about this new season.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs do have something to be excited about this year. With the entire first varsity eight boat returning from last season, the Elis are assembling a veteran, experienced squad and aiming for more impressive results.
A key returning veteran is Brennan, who won a gold medal as part of the United States’ Men’s Eight at the 2003 Pan-American Games on Rincon Lake in the Dominican Republic this summer. Other key returning rowers include Billington, Scott Bender ’04 and Thomas Kalvik ’04.
Pescatore said he was pleased with the way the preseason preparation went this fall and the commitment demonstrated by the squad as a whole.
“It has been great so far. We’ve seen boys training extra sessions on their own, led by a few seniors,” Pescatore said. “But we still need to be consistent, to be ready to race at any time without necessarily additional mental preparation.”
In addition to the returning members, the Bulldogs also welcomed 22 freshmen on board, 13 of whom never rowed during their high school years. They have been training under assistant coach Evans Liolin, who also joined the Bulldogs this year.
“So far, I can see they are all very motivated about training, and they have been making good progress. It’s very exciting for me [to coach them], and I can already taste the smell of success in them,” Liolin said.
The fall portion of the season will see the Bulldogs compete in five regattas — two at home, two at Princeton and one at Harvard. The Bulldogs’ first regatta is on Oct. 11 in Derby for the Head of the Housatonic.