Crew teams open season in Boston

by Jehanna Axelrod | 10/15/14 2:17pm

10.16.14.sports.crew_Kelsey-Kittelsen
The men’s lightweight crew team looks to improve on last year’s eighth-place finish at the Head of the Charles this weekend.
Source: Kelsey Kittelsen

The crew teams will travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts, this weekend for the 50th Head of the Charles Regatta — the largest two-day race of its kind, attracting entrants and spectators from across the globe. Thanks to its top-20 finish last year, the women’s crew team will send two boats to the race for the first time, a championship eight and a club eight.

Last season, the Dartmouth women finished 20th, the heavyweight men placed 25th and the lightweights finished 13th.

Women’s head coach Linda Muri is not entering the Head of the Charles with the same unfamiliarity as her team. Despite it being Muri’s first season with the Dartmouth women, she has spent 16 years coaching in the Ivy League and has sent boats to the competition almost every year.

Muri already faces a challenge in her first race: compiling top boats without the whole team on campus — seven team members in the Class of 2016 are currently on off-terms.

“That’s a big impact on the program, not having them around,” Muri said. “It does set us back just a little bit, so we have to adjust our expectations a little bit for the regatta this weekend.”

The team must finish in the top half to qualify for next year’s regatta. Instead of going by previous lineups to determine who is competing, Muri tested the rowers herself — checking their fitness on the ergometer, through seat racing and time-trial results.

“I’m trying not to look back too much at last year’s results, and specifically I haven’t looked up any of the lineups for last year for either the fall or the spring,” Muri said. “I want to be able to give everyone on the team this year a fresh slate.”

The men’s heavyweight and lightweight teams went about selecting their lineups in similar ways, and the heavyweight first-year head coach Wyatt Allen has, like Muri, spent time getting to know his rowers.

“I’ve been with the team now basically four weeks, so they’re still very new to me,” he said. “I’m still very new to them, but things have gone well so far.”

Allen is sending a team to the Head of the Charles for the first time.

“I’m looking for these guys to have a solid run down the course,” he said. “It certainly depends on how our coxswains do steering-wise — if we stay clear of some collisions and have a clean run down the course.”

The team has also been practicing well this fall even without many of the junior rowers, Allen said.

“It certainly is a little bit of a disadvantage, but what it does is provide opportunities for a couple of the younger guys to step into what currently is the top boat,” Allen said.

Allowing underclassmen to compete in a large regatta could help the team in the spring, he said, as the eight will row against many of the teams that it will see come April.

“This is really about measuring where we are at this point in the year,” Allen said. “Our season won’t be made or broken by how we do at the Head of the Charles, but we’ll use it as a stepping stone toward, hopefully, a successful spring season.”

Lightweight head coach Sean Healey also sees the Head of the Charles as an opportunity to see how the team stacks up against other crews.

“Whatever we’ve done inside practice has been in a very controlled environment,” he said. “We simply don’t know how we’re going to compare against the competition.”

Despite not having a perfect gauge of where the team stands, Healey remains confident that it has the potential to show well.

“I’m pretty excited about what we’ve done so far,” he said. “I think we’ve taken some good steps forward, I think we have a number of older guys returning that are doing the work they need to do.”

The Head of the Charles kicks off at 8 a.m. on Oct. 18.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended (Oct. 16, 2014):

The lightweight team finished 13th at the Head of the Charles last season. The article initially reported that the team finished eighth. The article has been corrected.