Julia Richter leads UMass rowers in Head of the Housatonic

By Neil Carroll

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The Massachusetts rowing team had its first test of the 2009 season this past Saturday in Derby, Conn., and according to UMass coach Jim Dietz, the women matched up well against their opponents.

“I think overall it was a good race for us,” said Dietz about the Head of the Housatonic Regatta. “…it was tough for everyone because of the weather, but I think we came out alright.”

The regatta opened with the women’s singles and featured UMass rowers Julia Richter and Sam Smith. Richter placed third in the race, while Smith rowed to a sixth place finish because of buoy and interference penalties.

In the varsity four, UMass raced three boats, but could not finish in the top five. Yale finished first and fourth in the race, and the top Minutewomen boat came in sixth, with a time of 18:45.486.

The UMass rowers could not place in the top five of the varsity eight. They raced three boats and finished seventh, eight and tenth, with their best finishing time of 17:20.391.

Although the Minutewomen did not place very high in the varsity four or eight boats, the team’s performance still satisfied Dietz.

“Going into a race like that, it’s not like you’re gonna win,” said Dietz. “You’re competing against some of the best teams, so it’s how you’re gonna do against yourself.”

UMass raced against Atlantic 10 conference opponents as well as boats representing other schools such as Yale, Iona, Fairfield and Williams. Overall, UMass entered 18 boats in Saturday’s contest.

Dietz also said his team still has room for improvement.

“We’re working generally on technique and also getting a flow in the boat,” said Dietz. “Fitness comes throughout the year, so we’re just getting some experience.”

The Minutewomen captured first place in the junior varsity four. The UMass boat finished in first with a time of 20:17.096, placing them ahead of Fordham, Yale, the Coast Guard Academy and Iona, respectively. The UMass novice boat placed second.

In contrast to most of the other varsity crew programs, Dietz encourages his rowers to get experience racing in the smaller boats. He believes that the practice they get in races consisting of smaller boats can help the team as a whole.

“We do what other schools don’t,” said Coach Dietz. “Unlike Yale, Williams and other schools, we allow a lot of small boat rowing for our girls to get experience.”

Next weekend, UMass heads to Boston, Mass., to compete in the world-famous Head of the Charles Regatta. This race includes many of the most prestigious schools in the country, and gives the UMass team an idea of where they place against the nation’s top competitors.

Neil Carroll can be reached at [email protected]