In the early Saturday morning sun on Lake Samish, Western’s men’s and women’s rowing teams glided into the water for their first regatta of the year. Fueled by donuts and coffee, rowing fanatics gathered on the partially frosted beach to watch Western face University of Puget Sound in a friendly exhibition.
The women’s team took to the water first for the pre-season competition, in races of 1,000 meters instead of the normal 2,000 meters. There were also no official scores kept as all the boats labeled A, B and C faced off in the early morning.
Carl Smith, a rower on the men’s A boat, hopes the strong showing in the exhibition is an indicator of the season to come.
“It definitely means winter quarter was spent well,” Smith said. “Everyone’s got their fitness levels up.”
The races took place on Saturday, March 9, a few weeks before the actual season begins for both teams. The season starts March 29 for the women’s team and March 30 for the men’s team. During spring break the teams have practices twice each day.
“We’re not rowing as clean as we should be [now], but it’s before the official season so I think we’re where we want to be,” Smith said.
Since this is a pre-season competition, Western’s teams do not have a varsity boat officially lined up yet, so the boats are separated into the A, B or C categories, with A as the top skill level. The coaches are currently deciding who will be on the varsity teams for the season.
“Usually it’s a combination of on-the-water factors like how well you row and what your technique is like,” Smith said, regarding how the coaches choose the varsity teams.
The women’s boats performed well in their races against Puget Sound, despite having only one returning rower after eight seniors graduated last season.
“It was really nice to be able to compare our team to another team,”
said women’s varsity team captain, Stephanie Bluhm. “It showed that we are definitely going to be competitive again this year.”
Last year the women’s varsity received second at nationals, and they are working for a top spot again this year, Bluhm said.
This is the first year Western has done this specific pre-season regatta.
Small regattas like this are a way for the teams to get more races in for the season, Smith said.
“When the points don’t matter in races like this, it’s more about just getting experience,” he said.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have a lot of younger rowers coming up, and they are confident that this season will top the last.
“Everyone’s doing a terrific job right now,” Smith said. “There are a lot of impressive novice rowers and our varsity boats are shaping up.”