Virginia Rowing left Boston with the best Head of the Charles results in program history this weekend. In all, 23 Virginia rowers returned to Charlottesville with gold medals dangling around their necks—14 from the men’s team, 9 from the women’s.
The weekend’s racing began with the men’s alumni 8 starting near the back of a field of 44 crews. For more than two miles, they held off a 2009 Harvard crew that boasted, among others, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist. The Virginia crew (C: Theresa Tratensek, 8: Robbie Schwieder, 7: Sean Fagan, 6: Geoff Evans, 5: Will Oliver, 4: Jack Higgins, 3: Nick Jablonski, 2: Lane Cobb, 1: Mark Bezold) finished an amazing 11th. They beat, among others, alumni crews from Michigan, Wisconsin, Princeton, and Columbia. Way to earn that post-race beer, guys!
Speaking of alums, UVa’s Matt Miller ’11 had a truly impressive trip down the Charles. He competed in the Championship Doubles event, representing Potomac Boat Club. Matt and his partner Sam Stitt finished 2nd in a field that was heavily laden with Olympic medalists such as Olaf Tufte, Iztok Cop, Alan Campbell, Marcel Hacker, and others. Wow!
Unlike last year’s varsity 4, who won the Collegiate 4 event by a cavernous 45 seconds, this year’s varsity 4 (C: Sarah Zillioux, 4: Ty Saitta, 3: Forrest Brown, 2: Gage Wells, 1: Will Courtney) made things more…interesting. They nipped 2nd place Michigan by just 2/10th of a second, thanks in very large part to a perfectly-steered course by Sarah Zillioux. UVa started at the front of the pack and were never challenged directly for the lead. They maintained a strong rhythm, knowing that somewhere behind them Michigan and others were fighting hard to make up ground. The guys showed conclusively that every single stroke counts!
The varsity 8 (C: Katie Garrity, 8: Jon Furlong, 7: Ben Hammond, 6: Perry Cox, 5: Scott Stuard, 4: Peter Malm, 3: Steven Lee-Kramer, 2: Garrett Thomas, 1: Ed Crocker) flew to Boston determined to make the most of their Collegiate 8 race on Sunday. They began the race in 2nd position out of 37 crews.
Virginia shot off the start and passed Williams before the end of the Powerhouse Stretch. Williams showed great sportsmanship by allowing Virginia to pass, but they certainly didn’t roll over. With great determination, they chased the Hoos down the course, and the ensuing battle drove both boats to solid performances.
Virginia pushed away from the field, finishing 14 seconds ahead of 2nd place Michigan, though a 10-second penalty (missed buoy) reduced the official margin to 4 seconds. It was Virginia’s first-ever victory in an 8 at the Charles, and, as with the 4, set up Virginia and Michigan as the #1 and #2 bow numbers for next year’s HOTC. It’ll be a barn burner!
The varsity lightweight 8 took to the course soon after the V8’s race, marking the first time a UVa lightweight 8 has competed in the Head of the Charles in 30 years. The competition was absolutely cutthroat, with national teams and top-flight Eastern Sprints programs filling the ranks. UVa’s rowing was far better than the result (17th out of 18 crews) would indicate. No tears, though. The athletes understand fully that that there’s plenty of program building to be done in the years to come. It was a great first step.
On a side note, former VRA head coach Will Oliver coached the M.I.T. Engineers to a fantastic 5th place finish in the lightweight event, beating, among others, Cornell, Navy, and Columbia. Nice job, Will!
The UVa women were also at the regatta, and they TORE. IT. UP. Competing in the Championship 8 event, the varsity 8 finished 3rd, behind USRowing and the Women’s Great Eight, made up of recent Olympic medalists from around the world. UVa beat THREE national team crews, and finished an amazing 25 seconds ahead of the next collegiate crew (Princeton). An incredible performance!
In addition, UVa women’s assistant coach Brett Sickler stroked the University of Michigan alumni 8. Michigan won the event (all right!), but beat the 2nd place UVa’s alumni 8 in the process (boo!). Great job, Brett!