Head of the Charles preps Wolverines for Big Ten season

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 9:25pm

Ask Michigan women’s rowing coach Mark Rothstein what he thinks of the Head of Charles event in Boston, and he’ll tell you it’s a “litmus test” for his first and second varsity eight teams. The event included some of the best crews in the country, including California, Syracuse and Brown, each of which surpassed the Wolverines' first varsity eight time of 16:49.

But the most valuable takeaway from the Head of the Charles is that it gives the Wolverines experience in one of rowing’s most prestigious events.

“It’s the biggest running regatta in the world,” Rothstein said. “It’s a really fun environment, and something that I just think is a great experience and challenge and gets them ready for competition. There’s a lot of pluses to it.”

The first varsity eight, headed by freshman starboard Rebecca Joyce, faced a tight race with Syracuse. Trailing the Orange by eight seconds at the third checkpoint, Michigan nearly came back, as it trimmed the lead to only one second by the race’s end, but ultimately fell short, finishing seventh.

“(The one varsity eight) had a good week of practice and just didn’t perform as well as capable on race day,” Rothstein said. “I’d rather that happen now than in spring. ...  I thought (they) had a better race in them, but I’m confident where our team is right now.”

The second varsity eight, led by junior port Kinsey Vear, finished 14th. Their 17 minute finish time was two seconds behind Notre Dame and two seconds ahead of Dartmouth.

Still, Rothstein remains adamant about getting his players into physical condition in time for the Big Ten season.

“This time of year, everybody coaches everybody,” he said. “We don’t really specialize in terms of crews all that much.”

From his stance as spectator, Rothstein could tell the course was challenging for his young team. Yet he remains confident that, despite being inexperienced, this is a team with depth and a rigorous work ethic — which the Wolverines hope will translate into more success in the future.

“Obviously, we want and expect to be one of the top crews in the country,” Rothstein said. “So it’s good to get that kind of competition (out of the Head of the Charles).”

Even with high expectations and tough competition, Rothstein recognizes how this event affects the attitudes of his players.

“The athletes really loved the event — probably more than the coaches,” Rothstein said. “Logistically, (the course) is pretty challenging, but it's something they really enjoy, and as a team, we get a lot out of.”

To be a top team, the Wolverines know this litmus test is one of the most important to prove they are a championship-caliber team.