By Sarah Beretich
The Catholic University men’s and women’s rowing teams took to the water this past weekend, marking the novice rowers’ first regatta. The Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, which annually hosts crews like Georgetown, UPenn, and Fordham, marks an important point in the fall season before it winds down into winter offseason. The team, lead by Head Coach Katie O’Driscoll, began training their freshmen in early September and, although the regatta is a generally a competitive fall season race, the novice women especially proved their resilience on the course.
Finishing 10th of 21 boats, the Women’s first Novice 8 performed the highest of the Catholic boats, completing the course with a time of 17:06.552, less than two minutes behind their varsity counterparts. Following close behind was the Novice women’s B boat at 18:19.112.
The men’s championship 8 took 29th of 36 teams, paddling in at a time of 14:02.116. While the varsity women’s crew suffered several roster losses this season, they followed the team’s top men’s time by only a minute and a half and placed 26th of 38 boats.
With few exceptions, the varsity men’s and women’s teams are relatively novice themselves, with the majority of the rowers beginning their rowing careers in the fall of 2018. This also marked the beginning of Catholic University’s NCAA III status for crew after over 25 years as a club team. The University announced in 2017 that the transition into varsity athletics would take place in Fall of 2018 along with Men’s and Women’s Golf.
Despite the team’s newcomer status, the Cardinals saw several successes in their 2018-19 season. Starting with the Occoquan Chase in Fall season of 2018, the team took home two golds for both their Women’s Novice 8 A boat and their Men’s Novice 8. The team then tied off a long but accomplished Spring 2019 season at the Dad Vail Championship Regatta, the largest collegiate rowing competition, with several successes. The Women’s Novice 8 placed 11 of 19 teams, 4th in their semi-finals and 4th in their petit final, while the Women’s Novice 4 placed 7th of 25 teams, before gaining 3rd in their semifinal race and 2nd in the petit finals.
The majority of the novice team had never competed in a regatta before and, after a long fall season, were happy to tie it off with a regatta. A testament to their grit was the 4,000 meter race course, generously accompanied by 6 bridges that push even the most seasoned coxswains to their stress-coping limits.
Despite the more grueling fall distance races, the team was proud of their efforts. Libby Dobrzynski, a freshman starboard rower, took 3rd seat in the novice B 8. Despite the contrast of regatta tents and oars to her typical chlorine and kickboards, Dobrzynski has been excited to learn a new sport in addition to a new college setting.
“My first ever regatta was so much fun and I have the team to thank for it! I think my boat did awesome… it was something we have been practicing hard for since the beginning of the semester,” says Dobrzynski. “I’m ready to see what the spring season brings!”
Freshman men’s team rower Gino Martinelli, rowed bow for the Men’s Novice 8 after taking his football, rugby, and lacrosse skills into the boat.
“I think that my first regatta went well,” said Martinelli. “I think that my boat executed what was practiced and we did the best we could. I’m very excited for next season, especially for the fast pace and more aggressive 2k races”
With the results from this weekend’s race secured under their oar handles, the rowers have enough to build on and the crew has begun wrapping up the fall season, which will finish off with the Head of the Occoquan. While the team’s newest recruits have plenty to live up to from last year, which will take place on November 2nd in Fairfax, VA, they are hoping the 5AM practices and their Schuylkill warmup will pay off.