Women’s Rowing Making Strides as Fall Season Comes to a Close

by Adrianne Hutto, Asst. Production Editor

The women’s rowing team is making strides this spring as sports teams begin to see a return to normalcy. With the MAAC on the horizon and a fresh group of walk-ons, the women’s rowing team is having an exciting season. Manhattan earned a personal best at The Head of the Charles race, securing the 12th spot and automatic qualification for next year’s event. Despite their 5 am wake-up call for making practices, the team is enthusiastic about what’s to come. This week The Quadrangle spoke with some of the players to get a look into their season so far.

Last year, COVID restrictions were at a peak, which affected many teams’ ability to hold normal practices and participate in events. With players going in and out of quarantine, most sports teams had an unstable season. 

Lauren Hughes, a senior at Manhattan College and captain for the rowing team, explained that while the team was able to practice and attend regattas, there has still been a noticeable shift from last year to this year. 

“Last year we practiced in pods based on the boat you were in,” said Hughes. “So that was a little more tricky if someone got sent to quarantine, but this semester obviously it’s so much easier.”

With many rowers in their first regular season, it was hard for them to get a feel for a real Division 1 season. 

“For me, I rowed freshman year and in high school so I’m kind of used to the tempo of being in season and going to races. But I think for sure it was a bigger adjustment for the novices and the freshman from last year,” said Hughes. “I think people were super excited to get back into it and really be competing this year. I think people were way more motivated, it was definitely a big adjustment just time management-wise.”

The players explained that a lot of rowers are typically walk-ons. Without access to a body of water or high school rowing team, many rowers were not exposed to the sport until they got to college. Because of this, the Jasper rowing team is always accepting walk-on players.

Maeve McNally-Cullum is a junior, port-side rower. McNally-Cullum explains detrimental walk-ons for the team, as she was one herself. 

Manhattan College women’s rowing team participated in the 2021 Tunnels to Towers 5K in September. 

“Rowing is a big walk-on sport, I was a walk-on. The only way to learn [rowing] is to get thrown in and do it,” said McNally-Cullum. “It’s hard to learn but once you get it it’s all about repetition and the only way to get better is to practice. You get what you put in.”

Younger athletes are already making strides on the team, having their first semi-regular season showing promising results. 

“They [novice players] won their first novice race, which was super exciting. I know they were all super hyped up to get their first metal. We’re all super impressed and happy to have them on the team,” said Hughes. 

The Head of the Charles is a famous large-scale international rowing regatta held in Boston each fall. With rowers coming from all over the world and a just over four thousand meter course scattered with winding turns and a total of seven bridges to steer through, this event is an important part of any collegiate rower’s career. With heightened COVID restrictions last year, the Head of the Charles wasn’t held as it regularly is. This year, MC rowing was able to attend the event. 

Elyse Holmes, a senior communications student and captain of the team, competed in the Four, which is a boat having four rowers and a coxan. The competition was an opportunity for the team to bond with each other and their coach. But it also allowed for serious improvement. 

“We went down that course and ultimately felt proud of what we put out. It was a little scary at times, because that course is known for crashes,” said Holmes. 

The team placed 12 out of 32, meaning they automatically qualify for next year’s event. 

Over the past four years, MC’s women’s rowing team has been working hard to increase their speed and build their program’s numbers. The season has already been successful for rowing, competing against Ivy League and top-ranked teams early on in their fall season. 

“We’ve recently stepped up the caliber of teams we’ve been competing against,” said Hughes. Like this weekend we raced against Syracuse and Cornell, some big programs, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them a few more times on the racecourse and trying to give them a run for their money.”

With increasing speed and success at The Head of the Charles under their belt, the team is getting noticed by other schools. 

“I think over the course of the four years, myself and the other seniors and everybody who has been a part of that did a really good job creating a strong foundation,” said Holmes. “Now producing a lot of speed in the program, and other programs are taking notice.”

The women’s rowing team placed 12 out of 32 at the Head of the Charles.

The teams’ main goal right now is to increase speed and productivity.

“We’ve really been hitting it hard in the weight room, making sure we’re putting some extra time in whether it be going for a run, bike ride, extra time on the urg outside of practice, just to try and give us the best possibilities,” said Hughes. 

With extra time in the weight room and working on their strength outside of practices, this goal is coming to fruition. 

“We made it to the grand final for the first time in history to the second varsity 8. That’s the first eight that have achieved that grand final. We’re looking to beat that again, not only in the 2V, by re-doing that, but also beating our times in the 1V, I believe the 1V went 7:09 in their 2000 meter pace. We’re getting amped up,” Holmes said.

The team has one more regatta left for their fall season and six awaiting them in the Spring. Women’s rowing has their sights set on achieving more goals and breaking their own records. 

“Last year we had an eight make it into the grand final. We’re really gearing up for an intense indoor season so I think we could do really well. It’s just all about having our head in the game,” said McNally-Cullum. “With Marist having placed in the top 20 at the NCAAs, I think it made our conference a lot more competitive. I think we can do really well if we put our head and mind into it and just really row our boats.”