WORCESTER, MA — Coming off of a productive week of training, the Williams men returned to Lake Quinsigamond prepared for their last race of the season. The wind on raceday was expected to be unpredictable, varying anywhere between a light crosswind down the course to a 15mph gusting headwind. The regatta officials, trying to anticipate the conditions, inverted the races so the first varsity boats raced first, the second varsity crews followed, then the third eights, then the smaller boats. Like the New England rowing championship, the national invitational rowing championships was a heats-to-finals style progression. In the 1v category, the top two finishers from each heat moved on to the final; in the 2v category, the top two crews also moved on to the grand final; and in the 3v category, the top three crews moved on to the grand final.
The 1v got off the line in the heat in the thick of it, with Bates College on the left and and Trinity College on their right. Through the course of the race, Bates and Williams left most of the field behind as the fought to the finish. With a strong sprint the Ephs pressed through the Bates crew finishing about 4 seats up with a time of 6:26.412 with Bates about a second and half back. In the final, the 1v sprung off the line amidst the Michigan and Hobart crews, holding with them for the first stretch of the race, but as the crews came through the 1000 meters the Michigan crew began to walk away with Hobart in between the Williams and Michigan crews. The Michigan 1v came through the line first in a time of 6:16.667, followed by Hobart in 6:22.045, and then in third the Williams 1v crossing the line in 6:23.78, securing the 7th NESCAC title in eight years. "It was great to see us combine our characteristic resiliency and toughness with poise in the heat and final," said head coach Colin Regan, "while we are aren't satisfied with the result, which will always be the case when we don't win, we do go forward with a lot of confidence in ourselves and our process." He continues, "I do believe this result represented our best on the day, which earned us a NESCAC championship and put us within a length of an IRA bid. With the opportunity to go to the IRA on the line starting in 2017, the lingering hunger will serve us well over the next 12 months."
In the heat the Williams 2v saw Wesleyan and WPI, both crews they have seen in past racing weekends. "We managed to be up on Wesleyan from the start, so when we got to the 1000 meter mark and were still moving up, that shook them a bit," comments senior rower Alex Meyer, "they were the only crew we were really worried about in that race, so that was a great victory for us." The Williams second varsity crossed the line in 6:48.140, 9 seconds ahead of Wesleyan, a crew they just edged out last week at the New England rowing championship by less than half a second. The 2v sprung off the line in the final, managing to stay within a few meters of Michigan and Hobart for the first half of the race. Meyer remarks, "in the end we had a great race, it just wasn't enough to compete with those crews. Nothing to be sad about, but there's always room to improve; it's an exciting challenge for future crews to take on." In the final the 2v crossed the line for third behind 1st place Hobart, who got the last stroke to move in front of second place Michigan. Coach Regan comments "We really started coming into our own over the last two weeks. We don't define ourselves by results, but we do use them, among other things, to inform where we can improve. All season we've been last off the line, so getting off the line first in the heat and with the top of the field in the final signaled progress in an area we've been working on. Clearly, Michigan and Hobart demonstrate a next level of speed, to which we have and will continue to strive. However, I do think this result, like the varsity, represents our best on the day. Undoubtedly, with a few more weeks, which we can earn next year with the IRA bid, and we would see this crew continue to get faster. Just like with the varsity, we go forward with a lot of confidence, but a lot of hunger to be better."
The 3v had a rocky start off the line in the heat, the crew picked it back up strongly to finish third in their heat with a time of 7:09.317, securing their position in the grand final, behind Michigan and Trinity who also moved on. In the final, the 3v men had their best start of the year, getting off the line at 42 strokes per minute and then settling into a solid rhythm despite the gusting winds. "They sprinted early at 550 meters left to go 'all in' for the last race of the year," comments senior coxswain Chrissy Pak, "we ended up with open water on Trinity who had beaten us the week before by .16 seconds." She continues, "it was the best race of the season and fitting end for an underdog crew that came together and improved exponentially throughout the year." The crew finished in 5th place ahead of Trinity, finishing the business they started last weekend, crossing the line in 6:31.876. Michigan and Hobart placed 1st and second respectively with times of 6:11.499 and 6:17.826. Coach Dave Smaus comments on their performance: "I haven't been more proud of a group in a very long time. These guys have showed all season they are resilient and tough. They came together to go faster than they ever have and row better than they ever have. This was a great day for the 3v and for the seniors."
"I am proud of all these guys and of Dave for what we accomplished this year," Regan remarks, "it's great to be NESCAC champions for the first time since 2014. That title has gotten harder and harder to win in recent years as we see this whole league pick up speed. More importantly, I'm proud of the choice made each day by every guy to invest into team speed." He continues, commenting on the team's overall success, "We won the NIRC combined points trophy by 3 points, so truly it's the case that everyone's effort today and in all the months leading up to today, mattered. One crew finishing one spot lower and we wouldn't have done it. We know there greater heights we can get to, so we're on to summer training, HOCR 2016, and IRA 2017."
The national invitational rowing championship wrapped up the season for Williams men's crew; the men are excited with their results and looking forward to building upon it next year. Meanwhile, the men will be cheering on Williams women's crew, who will be taking on the nation's fastest crews at the NCAA championships May 27-29 held at Gold River, California.