The rowing team’s novice 8+ crew members were honored as this week’s Cyclone of the Week for ending this fall season strong at the Head of the American race.
Coming to the race focused and determined, Mills finished 6th out of the 12 novice crews, beating division one Saint Mary’s College by 24 seconds. Out of the 12 competitors, Mills’ rowing team was the only division-three boat, where as the other schools’ novice boats were either division one or club.
According to novice coach Jess LaFrank, Mills’ novice boat raced at a different stroke rate compared to Saint Mary’s. Mills raced at a low stroke rating and focused on maximizing each stroke opposed to taking more strokes per minute. La Frank believes that this strategy worked well to help the Cyclones beat St. Marys’ Gaels.
Head rowing coach Sara Nevin was impressed by how focused and dedicated the novice team has been this season. She credits the team’s high maturity level and willingness to compete as helping the novice crew be successful during their fall season.
“[They have done] the best in the five years that I have been here,” Nevin said. “[It has been] potentially the best in twenty years since we have had a fast novice.”
Mills’ rowing team has a time crunch period to prepare for its upcoming six-week fall season. Due to NCAA division three regulations, Mills’ rowing team only has five weeks to prepare for races with a coach, compared to division one school, who can train with a coach from the first day of school.
During the preseason, the varsity crew helped train prospective crew members for the fall season. Both varsity and novice crew members were able to build up their strength and endurance during their preseason conditioning workouts.
“If we have a good novice team, that means we have a good varsity team,” Nevin said.
This year, the team, both varsity and novice, was split into three group inter squad competition races to have rowers practice how to be competitive and win. By having the varsity and novice teams work together in conditioning for squad races, the novice and varsity crews both improved their skills while also building stronger relationships between one another.
“It makes them really close in a way that I haven’t seen at other schools,” Nevin said.
Members on the novice crew are from all grade levels and have no experience in rowing. For many novice rowers, being on the team helped them create a strong team bond. For port side novice rower Marilyn Claes, being on crew has made them feel like they are a part of a tight-knit community.
“Getting up early, getting sweaty — while trying to complete the same move over and over — with the same group of people in a boat is definitely a ritual that I am missing right now, since the fall season for us is over,” Claes said.
Port side rower Lacy Stenzel believes that being on the novice team has been the right fit for her. Stenzel initially joined the team because she wanted to have a challenging work out. After finishing the fall crew season, she appreciates exposing herself to a new experience.
“There is a lot to think about in rowing,” Stenzel said. “You are thinking about speed, your oar, legs, your overall ergonomics, while also maintaining a good attitude.”
After this fall season, the stakes are high for the novice crew. The upcoming season in the spring will be twice as long as the six-week season during the fall. La Frank believes that preparation, precision and a calm sense of determination are all crucial into making the spring season successful.
“When the novice squad expands this spring, I think our newcomers will feel welcome,” La Frank said in an email. “Our returning team will provide a stable platform to absorb a lot of information quickly.”