The crew team returned this week from an action-packed regatta that resulted in the Cyclones medaling in three out of five races.
After spending the week of spring break rigorously practicing twice a day in preparation for their race against Division 2 schools Humboldt State University, Seattle Pacific University, and Seattle University, the Cyclones headed out to Humboldt Bay on Saturday, March 31. They were greeted by freezing weather – not the best conditions for a race.
“It was really cold,” said Head Coach Wendy Franklin. “All the boats and oars had ice on them and looked like popsicles.”
Nevertheless, the Cyclones launched with the Novice 4 race. The team, which consists entirely of first year rowers, ended up placing third out of four and gaining the first win of the season. Freshwoman Jessica Lafrank served as the coxswain for the Novice 4 boat. The coxswain is in charge of steering the boat, motivating the rowers, and making technical calls.
“My goal before we got out there was to beat Humboldt on their own course,” said Lafrank. “We ended up doing that and it was great.” During the race, the Mills boat just barely avoided a collision with the Humboldt boat at the finishing line.
“The crew was really responsive,” said Lafrank. “If they hadn’t responded as soon as I’d called them, we would have hit them.”
The Varsity 8 race consisted of experienced rowers, most of whom have been rowing for at least two years. Cyclones started off at a steady pace but at about 400 meters they experienced a sudden equipment failure.
“The official was yelling at me to turn to the right,” said sophomore Jennifer Courtney, who served as the coxswain for the Varsity 8 boat.
She tried to use the rudder, which controls the direction of the boat, until she realized it was malfunctioning.
“I immediately focused all of my energy on getting the boat swung back on course but I was thinking ‘oh my God this is horrible why is this happening in the middle of a race’,” said Courtney. “But I was really proud of how the rowers didn’t let that discourage them and fought hard the rest of the way.”
The team succeeded in guiding the boat back on track and came in fourth place, merely four seconds after the Humboldt boat.
“Jen showed a lot of calm and cool. I was proud of how they handled themselves,” said Franklin.
She added, “They had a taste of what it’s like to be ahead and to get sidelined like that – it just makes them hungrier for the next race.”
The Varsity 4 race was immediately after, where they also had a close race, coming in fourth out of five teams.
The Novice 8 race was another achievement for the Cyclones, where they medaled after placing third out of four. Novice Coach Angela Badran recalls how Novice 8 stood out as the only boat to be able to line up straight and steady at the start of the race despite a strong tide and wind that knocked the other boats off their lines.
“It was really significant,” said Badran. “It really showed the quality of the athletes.”
Cyclones lost the Junior Varsity 4 race but medaled by default after a boat scheduled to race was scratched.
“Their race was an improvement,” said Badran. “They felt collectively more stable.”
Many crew members thought the regatta was successful.
“It boosted our confidence,” said Lafrank. “I think we trust each other a lot more.”
The crew team feels ready for their next races in Vancouver, Washington, and for the championship hosted by the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association in Sacramento.
“For me, winning or losing isn’t as important as the way they felt they performed” says Badran. “If they came out of the water feeling they had raced their best, then that’s more important.”