Men’s heavyweight rowing prepares for Head of the Charles Regatta

Nearly halfway through the fall term, men’s heavyweight rowing gears up for their first event of the season, the Head of the Charles, held in Cambridge, Mass. on Friday, Oct., 21.

by Bella Martin | 10/7/22 1:05am

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Courtesy of Miles Hudgins

Nearly halfway through the fall term, Dartmouth men’s heavyweight rowing is preparing for their preliminary regatta — the Head of the Charles Regatta — which will be held in Cambridge, Mass. on Oct. 21. 

In the 2021 Head of the Charles Regatta, the heavies started the season off strong, as the Big Green finished third out of 44 teams and tenth out of 35 teams in the men’s club fours and men’s club eights, respectively.  Miles Hudgins ’25 said that this year, Dartmouth’s unified goal is to take the shared stamina established last year to keep up with a lot of the more competitive crew teams that are out there.

“This year, we’re chasing down [the University of] Washington and pushing on Yale [University], which are two really, really strong teams,” Hudgins said. “It’ll be really fun to just be in the mix there and try to see if we can put together a good lineup and just go to town.”

In order to get into prime racing shape for the Head of the Charles and the spring 2023 season ahead, William Bender ’24 noted that a large part of the heavies’ training for the fall and winter is trying to build stronger aerobic capacities to feel prepared for the spring.

“In the fall, [training consists of] head races, so those are like three miles, and the Charles [Regatta] is around 4700 meters,” Bender said. “We do our tests, so 30 minutes at [20 strokes per minute] and then we do six kilometers.” 

According to Hudgins, presently, heavies practice is twice a day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and once on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Preparation consists of rowing in the mornings followed by high-intensity lift sessions to strengthen their bodies into in-season shape.

“The group splits up into two sections because we row a lot of singles, which is just you in the boat,” Miles Hudgins ’25 said. “We race eights, but singles are still pretty valuable for training.” 

Although the Head of the Charles is a notable marker as the beginning of the heavies’ season, the team’s training continues to increase in difficulty as they build up for the spring season, in which a majority of their major regattas are held.  

In spring 2022, the Big Green went on to win the Alumni Cup against Holy Cross College, Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dartmouth then beat the Brown University heavyweight rowing team at the Atalanta Cup, and they ended the spring season with a victory against Syracuse University and Boston University at Lake Morey for the Packard Cup. 

Later on in June, the heavyweight team competed in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship. The junior varsity team finished in third while the varsity team came in seventh place. Although not the result that the team hoped to achieve, they have used this time to build upon their skills and come back stronger. 

“In the spring, we do sprint racing, which is you have six lanes and it’s two kilometers in a straight course,” Bender said. “We also do head races where you start every 15 seconds, so it’s just who has the best time because it’s different distances and lower rates [than the fall],” Bender said. 

Billy Lockhart ’24 said that Dartmouth’s approach continues to serve as a strength for the heavyweight program for the last couple of years. 

“We’re one of the programs that emphasizes sculling more, which is rowing with two oars instead of one,” Lockhart said. “It’s a lot more oriented for strength, power and speed.”

Although the Big Green have some notable strategies and goals as training continues to ramp up, the start of fall 2022 also marks an adjustment period to the departure of last year’s senior rowers and an assistant coach, as well as the introduction of new rowers into the program. 

“We definitely lost a lot of experience last year; we basically lost two senior classes. We also just lost a coach — one of our assistant coaches took the head coaching job at Penn,” Lockhart said. The coaching staff and the upperclassmen are doing a really great job of stepping up and filling a lot of roles that have been filled by the experienced upperclassmen in the past.” 

Hudgins, who was a new member of the team last year, recounted the pressure to improve throughout the season as well as step into larger roles as more senior members step away. 

“It’s very competitive, and there is a lot of internal competition, so you can see how you’re doing and see if you’re making progress in the right or wrong direction,” Hudgins said.

Overall, Dartmouth heavyweight rowing is looking forward to the season as they improve their skill through training, sportsmanship and team building. 

“We’re counting on the other guys to step up, and I think we’re in a good spot,” Bender said.

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