In the final leg of a long spring training trip, the Ephs descended upon the historic Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, PA to race St. Joe's and Temple in separate races.
The crew left the comfort of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Wednesday with the destination of Charlottesville, VA. Early Thursday morning the Ephs took on perennial powerhouse Virginia in a scrimmage during a shared practice. The team then departed north on the path to Philly. On Friday they arrived to practice on the water and get the lay of the land in anticipation of a big day of racing. The Ephs continued their tradition of staying the night at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA thanks to the graciousness of Williams alum and Headmaster Steve Piltch.
The Ephs started the day out racing around noon with the first and second varsity boats and the first freshman boat taking on St. Joe's. The conditions were very difficult with variable winds at the start evolving into a blistering 15-20 mph cross-headwind, gusting up to 25-30 mph. The winds created a respectable amount of chop that tested all crews.
The Ephs controlled the freshman race from the start, but St. Joe's hung on close throughout the entire race until the sprint. The final margin was a solid 6.5 seconds for the first spring race of their collegiate careers.
Next off was the second varsity boat, which as Head Coach Peter Wells put it, "looked like they were shot out of a gun" from the start. The second boat got up early and continued to create separation for a final margin of 18 seconds.
The first varsity boat had a much more difficult time with St. Joe's top boat. The Ephs got up a length by the bridge and were able to hold onto this margin for most the race, fending off moves by the St. Joe's boat. The final margin was 2.3, so nearly ¾ of a boat length.
The Ephs returned to the water around 3 p.m. to take on Temple. First out on the water where both Williams freshman boats who raced against the Temple 3V. The first freshman boat had an outstanding race clearing the field by 25 seconds. In second place was Temple and in third was the second freshman boat 13 seconds behind Temple. The second freshman boat is entirely composed of walk-ons, many of whom just started rowing 2 weeks ago, so the result is very promising.
Due to injury and the need to still test lineups, the varsity squads switched up the boats heavily between duels. The new second varsity boat raced a nail biter against Temple, squeaking out the win in a margin of 0.3s, which is about 5 feet over a 2-kilometer course. The boat had developed a solid lead of nearly half a length, but had to fend off a fierce final push by a strong Temple crew.
The new first varsity boat had a big challenge on hand with a Temple crew that had been very successful the week before at Murphy Cup and against Bucknell in the morning. The first boat got off to a faster start than the morning, but still found themselves down by half a length coming through the bridge. The Ephs pushed the rate and had a more aggressive race plan than the morning, but the Temple crew was too strong and fended all the moves. The final margin was 3.0 seconds with bow to stern overlap.
"Because the team had a successful indoor training season this winter," comments co-captain Erick Quay, "spring break was all about quantity and quality meters on the water. The two races at the end of our break marked our first opportunity to test out a few different lineups in actual head to head competition. This year our boat is older and more experienced than last year, and the guys really showed poise and flexibility—rowing in different seats, on different sides, and in different boats. I'm looking forward to seeing what this group of guys can do this spring."
The Ephs still have frozen water here in the Berkshires, so the practice schedule is uncertain. What we know for sure is that the Ephs will be racing at Worcester, MA next Saturday against WPI, F&M, MIT, and Conn College.