This past Memorial Day weekend was the American Collegiate Rowing Association National Championships in Gainesville, Georgia. The team sent down seven entries including a Men’s Varsity 4+, a Men’s Varsity 4x, a Men’s Varsity 2x, a Men’s Varsity 2-, a Men’s Novice 4+, a Women’s Novice 4+, and a Women’s Varsity 1x. This race was the major focus of the year (other than New Englands), as it is our chance to show how we stack up against some of the best collegiate clubs across the country. The team performed well with 6/7 entries qualifying for grand finals, and four of those boats placing top five.
With bad weather threatening racing, a last minute decision changed the regatta’s usual progression schedule to time trials, semi-finals, and finals. The first Rhode Island boat to take to the 1996 Olympic course was the Men’s Varsity 4+. The boat of Steve O’Brien, Colin Moulton, Joe Martinez, Grady Bolan, and coxswain Max Fullmer started first out of 27 crews and had the fastest time, covering the roughly 1900m time trial in 6 minutes 23.9 seconds. This gave them a good lane draw for the semi’s that would be contested later in the day.
The next crew to race their time trial was the Men’s Varsity 4x. Having no sculling races available during the season, this was the quads first time taking to a race course. Will Bernard, Kyle Higgins, John Mannion, and Dominic Campione finished 4th in the time trial out of 11 crews. Their time of 6 minutes 31.8 seconds put them only 0.6 seconds off of the 2017 silver medalists Michigan and about 5 seconds ahead of defending champs Virginia.
The Men’s Novice 4+ of Ian Wyllie, Noah Key, Brendan Maymon, Cameron LaFreniere, and Sydney Pellerin was next to compete. With all five members of the boat coming from our 2nd Varsity 8+, this crew was used to rowing together and it showed in the result. Out of 25 crews, the Novice 4+ was sitting in second with a time of 6 minutes 46.4 seconds, only 1.7 seconds behind fellow New England school, Vermont.
In the Women’s Novice 4+, Sophie Vicedomine, Jillian Cidras, Jenna Taormina, Katie Moran, and coxswain Emily Tennett raced against 17 other crews. After the time trial, the ladies time of 7 minutes 54.5 seconds was good enough for 8th place. With the course having eight lanes, the women showed they had a good chance to advance to the grand final after the semi’s.
Another of our boats that had very little time to work together, the Men’s 2- of Nick Soucy and John Searles paddled down to the start after only 2 weeks of training in this boat class. In a field of 25 crews, the “Saucebear Pair” secured the final spot in the A/B semi with a time of 7 minutes 32.3 seconds.
The next duo to launch was the Men’s 2x of Dante Procopio and Matt Leal. In a field of 20, the double pulled to a 4th place in the time trial. Their 7 minute 1.6 second time trial put them in within 6 seconds of four other crews and it showed how competitive the event was going to be.
The last ram of the morning session was Women’s 1x, Kelly Rothenberger. Only a sophomore, Rothenberger was looking to make another Grand Finals appearance after qualifying last year as a freshman. Finishing 8th in the time trial with a time of 8 minutes 52.8 seconds, she put herself in a good spot for the semi-final and was one step closer to the grand final.
The order for the semi-finals was the same as the morning session. Once again the Varsity 4+ raced first. Just looking to advance to the Grand Final, the crew took a comfortable 2nd place in the semi, with plenty of distance over the 3rd and 4th place crews. Their time of 6 minutes 59.22 seconds showed that conditions were a little slower than usual.
The Men’s Quad finished 2nd in their semi, securing an automatic spot in the Grand Final. Their 7 minute 26.414 second time was much faster than the rest of their semi and slightly faster than semi-final #2. They were now in serious contention for a medal spot in the finals.
Also, making themselves a medal favorite, the Men’s Novice 4+ won their semi-final in convincing fashion with a 7 minute 46.26 second time. Their main competition heading into the finals looked to be Vermont, UNC, and Tulane and it was shaping up to be a competitive race.
Our Women’s Novice 4+ also qualified for the grand finals after their semi. Placing third in their race with a time of 9 minutes 11.529 seconds the women showed they had come a long way since they first started rowing by qualifying for the National Championship Grand Final.
The Men’s 2- once again took to the race course but it was not in the cards for them to qualify for the A final. In a stacked semi that contained the eventual gold and bronze medalist crews, the pairs time of 8 minutes 22.993 seconds placed them 7th but they would still race the B final.
After a mishap at the start, the Men’s 2x recovered and pulled their way to 3rd in their semi with a time of 7 minutes 53.142 seconds. Clearly in the faster of the two semi-finals, places 2-5 were all within 8 seconds of each other, once again showing how competitive this final was going to be.
Rounding out the afternoon and first day of racing, the Women’s 1x was back on the course for the semi’s. Rothenberger’s time of 9 minutes 43.097 seconds got her back into the Grand Final for the second consecutive year. This meant that URI had qualified 6/7 boats for the A finals which were to be contested Sunday morning.
Running events in the reverse order from the previous day, the first URI rower for the day was Kelly Rothenberger in the Women’s 1x and after an hour long fog delay, racing finally got underway. In a well fought, tough race, with a deeper field than the previous year, Rothenberger finished 8th with a time of 8 minutes 56.62 seconds. Possibly the youngest rower in the field, Kelly has two more years ahead of her to achieve that elusive ACRA medal and she should be proud of making the A final two years in a row.
In the Men’s 2x A final, Procopio and Leal raced hard against some larger opponents to place 4th with a time of 7 minutes 20.79 seconds. Finishing 4th out of 20 crews proved the two men were some of the best scullers in the event even though they had only been in the boat for 2 weeks.
In the B final of the Men’s 2-, the long weekend of racing had taken its toll on on our rowers who would have to settle for an overall 16th out of 25 finish. With both rowers returning, we may see one or both of these men back in the pair next year hungry to make that A final.
The next A final for URI was the Women’s Novice 4+. The women, with a time of 8 minutes 17.80 seconds placed 8th. Being as three of the four rowers and the coxswain had not even seen the water until spring break, this was nothing short of impressive and these women will return to be leaders for the next class of women alongside Rothenberger.
Our best finals performance came from the Men’s Novice 4+ who won gold for URI for the second time in three years as the event was won by the Rams in 2016. Finding themselves in the front early, the crew could see the other charging crews and used it to push themselves and react to the oppositions moves. Coming into the final 500m, the race had separated and it was URI, Vermont, and UNC battening it out for the medals. In a nail biter finish, the men’s sprint just held off a hard charging Vermont with a 6:59.981 to a 7:00.095. The race served as the closest and most exciting finish of the entire weekend across all events.
The Novice 4+ were not the only medal winners as shortly after, the Men’s Quad came down the course. Coming into the last 500m, Georgia Tech and George Mason had already pulled away and URI was in a battle with Michigan and Virginia who were 2017’s silver and gold medalists respectively and have also been medalists the last few years. Essentially a lightweight quad containing a freshman and a rower who had only been sculling for two weeks, the crew took up the rate with 250m to go and gained two seats on Michigan who had no response. The crew crossed the line in 3rd to earn bronze in 6 minutes 51.963 seconds.
Our final boat for the weekend was the Men’s Varsity 4+. In a tight race, the middle three lanes were battening it out hard all the way down the course and nobody noticed George Mason in lane 2 who was creeping up and got a jump on the field to win gold. The men were knocked down to 4th place with a time of 6 minutes 46.7 seconds. The top 4 teams were all within 4 seconds of each other.
This was yet another successful ACRA’s and overall year for the team. Since the fall the team has earned fifteen 1st place finishes, six 2nd place finishes, nine 3rd place finishes, and numerous Grand Final appearances. We also secured the Club 4+ (yet again) for the Head of the Charles as well as the Inclusion 2x. Our team also had more women this year as we were able to field a full Women’s Novice 8+, who sometimes had to compete at the Varsity level due to the unavailability of novice events. We even received the Caldwell Character Award for restarting our women’s program from scratch and finding success. Our Men’s 2V and 3V 8+’s were primarily novice which gives us a foundation for the coming years. For the third year in a row at ACRA’s we secured at least one gold medal and at least two medals (of any color). We had six Grand Final appearances and four top five finishes at the National level. We will use these stats to set the tone as we gear up for next year. Congratulations to the whole team and thank you for the undying support of family, friends, and alumni. Until next year,
|May 26, 2018||2017-2018|
|225 Green St, Gainesville, GA 30501, USA|