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Dietz, Richter headline successful rowers for UMass at Head of the Charles

The weather may not have been the most welcoming but the Massachusetts  rowing team gained plenty of experience this past weekend in their most acclaimed race of the year, the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta. Rather than facing the wind as their usual obstacle, the Minutewomen rowed through a mixture of rain and snow on Saturday and Sunday.

“Rowers are hearty people,” coach Jim Dietz said. “We’re like ducks. When it rains you don’t go inside, you keep floating around.”

“By Sunday afternoon, it was coming down snowflakes as big as my fists. I’ve never seen snowflakes that would come down in clumps,” Dietz said.

UMass was well represented in a race that annually features Olympic national teams as well as the top collegiate rowing teams in the country. The women participated in the lightweight eights event and the  championship eights.

Sophomore Julia Richter represented UMass in the championship singles. Even the coaches participated, with Dietz competing in the championship singles and assistant coach Laura Simon coxing the UMass alumni team in the alumni eights.

The UMass team, coxed by junior Carly Payne, finished in eighth place in the lightweight eights, ahead of teams such as Stanford, Radcliffe Crew of Harvard University, MIT, and Holy Cross College, despite not being accustomed to the Lightweight race.

“I think they did really well,” Dietz said. “Lightweights aren’t something that we normally do here. Boating a strict lightweight eight just to get the entry and finishing eighth was really respectable.”

“The reason is that we have this small boat influence here at UMass. That’s why we can throw together a lightweight eight that quickly and it can do that well. They’re all really highly trained and skilled in moving from one boat to the other.”

In the openweight race, UMass, coxed by Samantha Schnoerr, placed 25th overall behind Atlantic 10-rival Rhode Island, however finishing in front of other rival schools such as Boston College, Northeastern, and Boston University. 

The women rowed at a pace of 28 strokes per minute while most of the other crews rowed in the 30s. As a result, the rowing team lost eight seconds per minute in their overall time. 

 “When the Dutch national team went flying by our gals I don’t think it bothered them too much,” Dietz said. “They just realized that these are the best crews in the world that you’re going against.”

“Overall, you’re working towards the spring. And it’s a very young lineup. So I came away feeling very good about the regatta and so did the girls,” Dietz said.

Richter, from Woltersdorf, Germany, was one of only two collegiate rowers to participate in the championship singles race. She finished the race in 12th place despite having difficulty rowing at a fast pace and steering at the same time, especially with the amount of curves in the course.

“It was a little intimidating but it was a good experience,” Richter said.

“She was very nervous having never been in Boston she didn’t know the course at all,” Dietz said,  “I was really pleased with her race on Saturday. I thought she really rode well.”

Richter felt the support of her coaches and teammates during the race as Dietz followed her on his bike the entire time and a few of her teammates looked over from the bridges cheering her along.

UMass also received plenty of encouragement from its alumni who set up tents and held events at night to cheer on the school.

 “We have a very strong fan base there,” Dietz said. “Every year it gets bigger and bigger. The alumni really pull together. It’s nice to see.”

“You have to be in an event like this to appreciate it. Even with the terrible conditions there were probably 100,000 people on the shore watching these races.”

The experience gathered in this race will build the team’s confidence not just for the spring, but also for their participation in the Head of the Charles next year.

At that time the team hopes to have two or three representatives in the under-23 U.S. national team for the lightweight eight as well as one or two more in the openweight eight. Richter is a returnee of the under-23 German national team.

“There’s a lot of upside potential there with such a young crew,” Dietz said. “So you keep moving up.”

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

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