SIRA Championships Review

Dear Alumni and Friends,

After the GW Invite got blown off the Potomac (thanks to all those who came to see us anyhow) and zero rowing at all, we traveled to Oak Ridge to compete at the SIRA Championships.

After a tough week of training, we went into the regatta slightly tired but focused and with high expectations. The format for the past several years has been time trials first for all boats (1,800 meters), then, depending on entries, we would race semi-finals in the afternoon and finals-only on Sunday. This progression matched well with our training program since it gave each boat a “quiet peace” over the course, allowed them to find their rhythm, timing, and get used to the venue.

All boats progressed smoothly with V8, 2V8, and 4x posting the fastest times. The semifinals in the afternoon brought the excitement of side-by-side racing six lanes across – some blistering first 500 meters were seen across all boats and teams, perhaps a foreshadowing for finals day. Again, all UVA boats progressed to the finals, finishing either first or second in their respective semifinals.

The Sunday Finals looked promising for some exciting races, and it did not disappoint! Below is a recap for all UVA boats, in order of appearance:

2x at SIRA 2024
The 2x at the start

2x: Wang and Watkins opened the score for UVA finishing second in a tight race for most of the distance, although the winners from NC State kept them at arm’s length until the end. Our 2x kept inching away from a tight field, ultimately finishing in second place with a solid performance.

4x at SIRA 20244x: After a slow start and in fourth position, Miller, Zuffoletti, Ozkaptan, and Kaczka found their base rhythm walking through the field to the 1k mark, then left the rest behind, where they brought home the first gold for the team with a length open on the rest of the field!

1st Novice 8+: Purdue was once more the favorite in this race, and they took the lead off the first 500 meters. Our guys kept attacking throughout the body of the race, but Purdue was simply faster, rowed better, and looked stronger. Purdue took the win by ten seconds with UVA finishing second.

1st Novice 8+ at SIRA 2024
The 1st Novice Eight getting into battle

This was a great learning experience for the boat, which included Hotchkin, Van Weezendonk, Nyberg, Walker, Suri, Tunstall, Kelly, Ehlers, and cox. These guys are now motivated and focused to make up for these ten seconds over the next three weeks. They are on good track to make up a lot of ground!

2nd Novice 8+: Though there were only three entries, this is the kind of race where anything can happen. Purdue looked like the clear favorite taking a one-length open water lead early on, but with 500 to go, a massive crab in the Purdue boat also popped open an oarlock, which allowed our boat (Schmidt, Ciocca, Abedi, DeVaul, Marx, Adkins, Prince, Leshner, and cox Tran) to pass them and take the lead. Purdue managed to recover quickly, and they went after us right away, passing our eight again and securing a win in the end. Second place was good for us, given that we had last year’s novice cox fill in for a rower who was unable to make the trip. What an experience for these guys’ first big race!

V4+: Our four perhaps had one of the most impressive performances over the weekend. With the stroke seat falling badly ill thanks to a not-so great egg sandwich and all its consequences, they were just holding on to dear life. Making the A-final was a huge success on its own. During the Sunday final, their efforts paid off and made the final. They fought once more in impressive fashion, but in the end finished sixth and Wash U took the win. We have so much respect to Schafer, Solomon, Boone, Abushmaies, and cox Lorens for making the best of an unfortunate situation!

2V8 at SIRA 2024
The calm before the storm, 2nd Varsity Eight before the start

2V8: Lindley, Reutzel, Hurst, Shaw, Crombie, McDevitt, Kowalski, Forrer, and cox Cheng were the clear favorites for this race after the preliminary racing was done. This was not an easy spot to be in, especially given how many second years were in the boat.

That said, they did an incredible job getting off the line fast and gaining a small lead to the 500. In poised fashion, they shifted to their long base stroke, establishing just enough of a lead to relax a bit before they walked away from the field with a strong 1k move. They secured their win by a few feet of open water over Purdue and Jacksonville to take home the SIRA Gold!

V8 at SIRA 2024
The Varsity Eight on the way to win first SIRA Gold since 2008!

V8: The blue-ribbon event at SIRA is always hotly contested since SIRA is an IRA Championship qualifier regatta for varsity teams (rowing’s equivalent to the NCAA tournament). Over the years, there has been a steady showing of “northern” crews as well as the D1 varsity teams from the South.

So often UVA would come up short, sometimes by the tightest of margins. Like last year when we lost out on a second-place finish by a few inches and finished in fourth instead. After rowing the fastest time in the time trial and winning the semifinal with the fastest time of the day, we were the clear favorite for this race, which was definitely not something any of these guys have experienced before. Gardner, Chadwell, Ballinger, Remigino, Hogan, Amato, Leon, Reid, and cox Daud raced that final with a certain coolness and relaxation that was impressive. While this was not the greatest start, it was perfect execution of a simple plan. Heads in the boat get it done! Notre Dame, an ACRA top competitor, finished second just a length back, followed by Jacksonville, Colgate, FIT and Stetson in hot pursuit. Jacksonville won their qualifying spot for the IRA Championship – and despite the upcoming rematch with Notre Dame in a few weeks for the big one – smiles were exchanged over the fact that two club teams just put away four D1 and a D2 team in a single race.

This was the first win by a club team since UVA won last in 2008 – and better yet, no team has won the V8, won the 2V8, and medaled both Novice 8’s – all of which were wins in small boats – this makes it particularly special for our whole team. And, we also won the Men’s points trophy!