Experience is the key to success. And for the first varsity eight boat on the No. 2 Michigan women’s rowing team, it is experience that has helped the boat earn its second consecutive Big Ten Boat of the Week award. Led at the helm by senior coxswain Tara Medina, the boat consists of five senior rowers, including All-American Leah Ketcheson, and serves as the role model for all of the other crews on Michigan’s squad.
“I think that this is probably the most experienced crew we have ever had,” Michigan coach Mark Rothstein said. “That goes well, but at the same time there is a lot of competition. I think their experience will be helpful and is an advantage, but it doesn’t mean we are going to be fast, and (the rowers) know that.”
Along with experience comes a sense of awareness. The rowers know one another well enough to know just what buttons to push to get the boat back on track if necessary. Medina knows just what to say to get her crew refocused and what to do to get them to come back from behind to win as it did Saturday against No. 6 Brown.
“We definitely have a lot of experience,” senior Sarah Trownbridge said. “We also have a lot of seniors and an excellent coxswain who has been doing this for years.”
In addition to team chemistry, all nine athletes bring a certain drive out to the lake every day, knowing that there is always room to improve and there are always technical aspects they have to work on. While many of the rowers have been in the same boat since freshman year, they don’t assume that past accomplishments will insure future success — and Rothstein expects nothing less of his top boat.
“Last year was last year, and this year is this year,” Rothstein said, referring to the boat’s third-place finish at the NCAA Championships last season. “Certainly, I feel good about the crew’s development up until now, but we need to get a lot faster if we are going to be successful down the road. And I think our kids understand that, and they know they have a lot of work to do ahead of them.”
The first varsity eight is currently undefeated this season, yet you would never know it from talking to the crew. The list of reasons to work hard throughout the season is a long one, but the fact that they are constantly pushed by improving opponents may be the biggest reason.
“We have really great competition, and that forces us to really get up for every race,” Medina said.
Prior to each race, the crew sits down together and comprised a list of goals for the upcoming regatta. Although the rowers admit that a win is nice, the list is usually focused on technical aspects. During practice the Monday after its race, the crew hones in on the mechanics of its form and its synchronization; there is always something to improve upon.
“We always have goals going into each race,” Trownbridge said. “They are usually technical, and we just try to make sure we improve on each race.”