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Poor weather derails Minutewomen

The Massachusetts rowing team’s novice squad discovered this Saturday that the Charles River is not its most welcoming course.

A month after the varsity crew team contended with snowfall during the Head of the Charles, torrential downpours and 20 mph winds plagued the novice team. Both novice eights competed against other crews and had to stop rowing, adversely affecting their results.

The first boat finished in the 14th position while the second finished last of 26 teams. A competing boat that was trying to pass the second novice boat ended up pushing the boat into a bridge.

However, UMass assistant coach Alex Binkowski reassured that foul play was not committed. He explained that these incidents happen often on the Charles.

“I think [the novice team] experienced some of the normal trials and tribulations of racing on the Charles River,” Binkowski said. “It’s a very difficult course to steer and race on. It’s very narrow, and there are five bridges to maneuver through.”

Rather than dwelling on the results, the Minutewomen were able to put things in perspective. The second boat was full of people who eight weeks ago had never rowed before. No one in either boat had rowed in the Head of the Charles, and the only novice rower who had participated in last month’s race was not present due to illness. Additionally, the first boat was missing its usual coxswain, who navigates the boat and had to use a substitute.

However, through all the obstacles, the focus of the Minutewomen remains the same.

“Our fall season is all about getting into shape and learning how to race,” Binkowski said. “Our championship season is in the spring. That’s where the focus is. The results will take care of themselves as long as we keep working hard between now and March.”

Now that the team has capped off its fall season, it will switch to eight-hour a week practices. So long as the weather permits, the Minutewomen will be on the water in early morning training sessions in small boats, which include singles, doubles and quads.

Head coach Jim Dietz explained that smaller boats require more skill to maneuver.

“[The rowers] feel the water more and understand their application of power more, and there’s more accountability,” Dietz said. “People have to learn what that level of proficiency is – that level of effort they have to put in to get good.”

Three Minutewomen returned from a camp in Princeton, N.J. over the weekend as they work towards becoming members of the U.S. National Team. Elizabeth Euiler, Chelsea Wakeham and Emily Boucher all performed well, Dietz said.

“I think all three of them have the potential [to be U.S. team members],” Dietz said. “And this is the way you find out. You go compete against the best. Success is more than your University’s success. For me, success is putting people on the national team. That’s the epitome of the sport.”

In the 13 years that Dietz has led the program, he has put eight women on the National or Olympic teams. Dietz hopes to add another three to the list.

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

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