On Saturday, April 9, the St. Mary’s crew team held its “Seahawk Sprint” down at the waterfront on a cloudy and chilly afternoon.
The Seahawk Sprint is the second regatta the team participated in this spring semester and the seventh regatta the team has participated in during the 2010-2011 school year.
St. Mary’s captured three first place races during the Seahawk Sprint which included the Novice Men’s 4, the Varsity Men’s 4, and the Varsity Women’s 8 races.
Crew is a sport of rowing whereby either four- or eight-rower boats are directed by the coxswain and race over a certain distance in hopes of completing that distance with the shortest time.
Describing her role as a rower, senior Melina Vamvas said she “sits 8 seat, which is the stroke [seat]” and “is only affecting the boat in a positive way.”
Junior Molly Dougherty, a coxswain, said “as a coxswain you’re a motivator…no issues are left off the water.”
Dougherty added that she makes sure everything is taken care of, addresses problems, and makes people comfortable.
However, she said she must “draw the line” between the role of conciliator versus motivator.
This past school year, the St. Mary’s crew team obtained many accolades during their regattas.
At the Wye Island Regatta, the Women’s and Men’s Mixed 8 and Mixed Double teams claimed first place in their four respective races.
At the Occoquan Challenge, the Varsity Women’s 8 team finished second.
Crew Coach Kristin Conlin said she gets her players to succeed through “repetition and focus” and that crew is “not about brute force but pursuing the sport intelligently.”
Conlin added she feels rewarded “when I know the workouts or technical drills positively affect the rowers.”
But the crew team has not always been the perennial contender it is today. Its status as a club sport means it lacks the funding and administrative support varsity sports are given.
Until 2007, the crew team had no paid coach. Conlin started part-time coaching in 2007, saying she “wanted to give back to the team” and the team would “die” without a permanent member, i.e. a coach.
Vamvas said before a coach was present the team was more of a casual group of rowers with much less determination and dedication.
“Coaches made it a team and not just a group of people” said Vamvas.
While club status offers the crew team fewer restrictions and more leeway, it also denies it school funding, out-of-school practices, and official recruiting.
Dougherty said “we work really hard and there is a lot of dedication and talent on this team… [but] it’s not recognized by the school.”
Conlin echoed Dougherty’s sentiment, and said “what the team needs is not just support from the College in words, they need some type of standing influence to make sure we’re able to progress.”
Although the crew team has faced some obstacles over the years, progress is still being made.
“Ten years ago the team could not have imagined [this] caliber of athletes and coxswains,” Conlin said.
Vamvas commented that “[the crew team] turned into a varsity team without being a varsity team.”
With only one race left for the year, Vamvas provided some reflective thoughts on her experiences on crew.
“I’ll miss having 60 best friends every year,” Vamvas said, and advised for rising and future teammates to “have fun” and “have a good row and a good time.”
Vamvas is one of three seniors currently on the team, and one of two seniors who has been on the team for four years.
Dougherty also discussed the socializing aspects of being part of the crew team.
She talked of eating meals together as team, living together with teammates, and generally having primary friends from the crew team.
“It’s a bunch of friends with a bunch of interests of a wide variety” Dougherty said. “We are a boat.”
Said Conlin, “crew has become more of an institution rather a small facet to their larger self.”