Harris to replace longtime women’s rowing coach Bordeau

by Eric Vaughn | 8/9/19 2:00am

Women’s rowing head coach Wendy Bordeau stepped down this week after 11 nonconsecutive years leading the program and 14 years total with the team. Kelly Harris — the lead assistant coach over the past two years — has been named interim head coach for the upcoming season. The Big Green will conduct a national search for the next permanent head coach who will start in the 2020-21 season.

While Harris served as Bordeau’s assistant for the past two years, she had eight years of head coaching experience prior to arriving at Dartmouth. Harris began her head coaching career in the fall of 2005 at Marist College as one of the youngest Division I head coaches. Despite being just 26 years old, Harris had a successful, but brief, tenure — she was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year both years at Marist. The Red Foxes won two MAAC championships under Harris’ tutelage. 

Following her time at Marist, Harris took over as head coach at Marietta College where she spent six seasons. Harris earned the Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference Coach of the Year award three times with Marietta and won another set of back-to-back conference championships in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, her V8 boat reached the NCAA Division III National Championships, marking the first at-large bid for the crew in 12 years. The Pioneers’ national success continued in 2012, as Marietta won its first team championship and received a team spot in the NCAA Championships for the first time.

After her accomplished tenure as a head coach at both Marist and Marietta, Harris accepted an assistant coaching position at Bucknell University from 2013-16. In Harris’ final season, Bucknell’s second varsity eight won the Bison’s first Patriot League Championship gold medal in five years.

Harris could not be reached for comment, but she said she is excited for the opportunity to coach the Big Green in a statement to the Dartmouth athletics department.

“I look forward to leading Dartmouth women’s rowing for the 2019-20 season, and am appreciative of this opportunity,” Harris said in the statement. “We have a passionate group of returning student-athletes and an eager incoming class of 14 first-years who will all play a critical role in our success.” 

Verity Lynch ’21 said she is looking forward to having Harris as head coach and believes Harris has what it takes to succeed.

“I’m eager to have coach Harris take us to new places this next season,” Lynch said. “She’s an inspiring woman who coaches with grit but humor when it’s needed, [and she] makes a great effort to understand our team on a personal level. She could not be more deserving of the position.”

Katharine Phillips ’21 echoed Lynch’s sentiment, and discussed how Harris’ lofty goals will hopefully lead to a more competitive team next season.

“I think that she’s going to have a really positive effect on team culture and mindset,” Phillips said. “Our team is trying to move towards a more competitive stance within the Ivy League, so I think coach Harris has big plans for that, and people are going to be willing to work hard for that.”

Harris took over in the interim for the 2019-20 season for longtime coach Bordeau. Bordeau first served as head coach from 2005-14, raising the program to national acclaim in the process. The Big Green V8 reached the NCAA Championship appearance two years into her tenure in 2007, and the entire Dartmouth crew qualified in 2009 — a feat that had not been accomplished since 1998. Bordeau led the Big Green to the NCAA Championship for the third time in her tenure in 2011. 

In addition to the team’s NCAA Championship appearances, over the course of 2007-11, the V8 reached the Grand Finals at the Eastern Sprints Regatta four times. The V8’s highest finish over that span came in 2011, when the boat finished third in the Grand Finals at Eastern Sprints.

Bordeau also oversaw significant individual success beyond the scope of college competition during her tenure as a coach. Several of her Big Green rowers earned national team seats for the United States, Canada and Britain, and many rowers received national scholar-athlete recognition. 

In 2014, Bordeau shifted to the position of senior associate athletics director for Dartmouth Varsity Sports, during which she coordinated 10 athletics programs for the Big Green and served as the deputy Title IX coordinator for athletics. After being reinstated as the head coach for women’s rowing in the fall of 2017, Bordeau did not reach the same level of success as she did in her first tenure. The team finished sixth out of eight schools in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 Ivy League championships before Bordeau stepped down.

While Bordeau’s crews sustained success on the water for much of her tenure, she wrote in an email statement that her fondest memories came from getting to know the rowers. 

“Since the very beginning of my time here at Dartmouth, my rowers have been an extension of my own family,” Bordeau wrote. “I’ve been blessed to coach some amazing young women and to remain close with them as they’ve navigated their own careers and started their own families. I will always hold them near and dear to my heart.”

 Justin Kramer contributed reporting.