Some Yale students struggle to make it to their 10:30 a.m. class, and cannot imagine having to wake up at 5:45 a.m. every morning to be on the water for practice.

But by the time many Yalies start hitting the snooze button, the crew team has already driven to the boat house and back, with a strenuous practice in between. For the freshmen on the women’s crew team, this lack of early morning slumber has paid off. On Oct. 23, the team became the first freshmen women’s eight in Yale’s history to win the Head of the Charles. They beat out 56 other teams in the Youth Eights Women division with a time of 19:14.404.

The head race, which took place on the Charles River in Boston, was staggered, with crews departing one after another at designated times and racing to overtake boats ahead of them. In this race, the Bulldogs’ speed and strength reigned superior. Their completion time for the course was six seconds faster than second-place finisher Brown.

The team said their victory was the highlight of the year to date, and attributed the win to their hard work throughout the season.

“We knew we had been training hard and were going to be facing tough crews,” Lilah Hume ’09 said. “But we weren’t afraid to really go after it, because we had nothing to lose.”

While Yale assistant coach Katherine Maloney said she had a good feeling about the race and knew her team was among the top tier of the competition, she did not go into the race with the loftiest of expectations.

“You never, or shouldn’t, expect to win,” she said. “I expected them to race with their best effort and they took it to the next level. On that day, it happened to be good enough for first.”

The boat was made up of eight freshmen rowers: Caroline Berson ’09, Shaughnessy Costigan ’09, Cara Dermody ’09, twins Christine Glandorf ’09 and Lee Glandorf ’09, Hume, Katherine Kazimer ’09, Karrin Weisenthal ’09 and coxswain Kristin Collins ’09. This group makes up the core of the freshman team, which includes nine experienced rowers and seven walk-ons.

Maloney said the freshman boat system allows the team’s experienced freshman rowers to assist the first-timers. It also creates a strong network for new rowers, who have to deal with the general stresses of adjusting to college life in addition to the practice schedule, she said..

At other schools, having boats solely comprised of freshmen might have its own kind of problems because of a lack of experience or older leadership to guide the rookies. But at Yale, the freshmen are immediately integrated and welcomed onto the varsity team, Hume said.

“The seniors and juniors are definitely the leaders of the team,” Hume said. “We look to them for advice and support, but also friendship, which has been unique for the team.”

Of the experienced rowers, most came from intense high school programs, and Christine Glandorf said they were ready for more intense collegiate rowing. The transition has been smooth, rowers said, especially because of the coaching staff.

“The coaches have been really supportive of our different learning curves and experiences,” Hume said. “They have challenged us, but also understanding that we’re freshmen and still figuring things out.”

Christine Glandorf also has the benefit of having her twin sister Lee Glandorf on the team. Because the two sisters row on different sides of the boat she said she does not feel any competition between them over positions.

“I love rowing with my sister,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to about practices and how things are going.”

For a team that already feels like a sort of family, having the sisters on board gives an added sense of community, team members said.

“Lee and Christina definitely have very different personalities,” Hume said. “Both are really motivated and contribute a lot of experience and energy to the team.”

For both the Glandorf sisters and Hume, rowing has been a family tradition so they decided to take up the sport in high school. Dermody, who strokes the freshmen eight, said her rowing career also began in high school when one of her friends was going to pre-season practices and she decided to go to one of the training sessions. College rowing requires more teamwork than high school rowing, she said.

“When you get up at 5:45 in the morning with the girls, when you practice and work really hard with the girls, you become really close,” Christine Glandorf said. “There’s no team like it.”

The Elis will try to continue their winning streak on November 3 when they travel to Princeton for the Belly of the Carnegie.

With the strong work effort and determination that the Elis have shown so far, this could the beginning to a successful season.

“I love that you get what you put into it,” Hume said. “There are few things in life like that.”

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