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UMass Rowing gears Up for another promising season

The Massachusetts rowing team may be the most successful team to wear maroon and white in recent years.  Having held the Atlantic 10 championship title for 13 out of the last 14 years, coach Jim Dietz and the rest of the Minutewomen are title-hungry yet again this season.

Year after year, Dietz gets the most out of his group of 65 women.  Of course, such achievement is contagious, when your head coach carries a history of winning in his back pocket. Dietz has been a part of almost every U.S. national team from 1967-1983, as well as coach of the 2000 U.S Olympic Team in Sydney, Australia. 

This year’s group of women hopes to continue its winning ways, as their first step towards that goal begins this Saturday at the House of the Housatonic in Derby, Ct.  Coach Dietz is confident that his team is ready for its first event of the 2009 season.

“The women came back in really good shape, so we’re picking it up really fast,” Dietz said.  He is especially excited about the amount of talent he sees in his younger rowers. 

“It’s very competitive to try to make the first open boat, and a lot of last year’s freshmen are stepping up and making it.  There’s a lot of pressure from last year’s novice team to push the varsity.”  

This year’s squad includes 52 women returning from last year, as well as 30 freshmen that have tried out and made it far through the selection of Dietz’s walk-on team. 

Saturday’s race will be focused more on gaining experience, as the girls have only been going for a short time. “For us, a race weekend is comparable to Sherman’s March to the Sea,”Dietz said, comparing the race to the widely-known Civil War campaign. “We bring our tents, we bring our grills, we bring our chili, we bring an army of women and a fleet of boats, and we’re just racing all day long.” 

Many of the girls will be racing two to three times in the day, just because they want to, Dietz explains.  “We come away very tired and usually pretty happy.  The more racing you get, the better conditioning you get in, the more race-savvy you are.” 

Coach Dietz calls this Saturday’s competition “a dress rehearsal” for next Saturday’s prestigious race on the Charles River in Boston.  The Charles is the largest head race in the world, according to the team, as 60 teams compete in the Women’s Championship Eight, including the U.S. national team, the London Training Center, which is the national team of Canada, and representatives from the Netherlands and Germany. 

“For us it’s a reward getting there,” Dietz said.  “This is tied for the most entries we’ve ever had.  We have three boats entered in the regatta, which is huge because most years you just get one.” 

As the fall season begins the Minutewomen prepare for the heavy dose of competition they will endure.  However, their coach always reminds them not to get too caught up in the moment.

“Just go out and have fun,” Dietz joked. “And fun is winning!” 

Pete Vasquez can be reached at pvasquez@student.umass.edu.

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