With one final stroke of the oars this past weekend, Andover Girls Crew G1 crossed the finish line and claimed first place at the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Championships (NEIRAs) for the first time since 2010.
“The feeling of winning is unlike anything I ever felt,” said Co-Captain Elizabeth Kemp ’15, who rowed on G1. “I don’t think it’s set in yet, and I don’t know if it ever will. The race will be a memory I cherish forever.”
The lineup of coxswain Janet Conklin ’17. Sam Hawley ’16, Vienna Kuhn ’16, Julia Marcus ’15, Lane Unsworth ’15, Cara Cavanaugh ’15, Kemp, Liz Irvin ’17 and Charlotte Chazen ’15 delivered for G1. G3 and G2 also came into the regatta with high hopes, but neither boat could beat out Kent, who took first in both of those races.
G1 finished with a time of 4:56 to beat out Kent by less than a second. G2 took home silver in a tight race that saw Kent edge out Andover by 0.4 seconds. G3 crossed the finish line at 5:34, finishing fourth in the second heat of the regatta.
G1, coming off of a 1-6 season with a fifth place finish at NEIRAs last year, finally found redemption at NEIRAs this year. The boat was determined from the very beginning this year to turn its record around but hit an early roadblock this season in Kent.
“I remember the [first] Kent race because it was a turning point for me,” said Kemp. “I had just gotten off the water and Coach [Dale] Hurley asked me how the race went, and I responded that it just wasn’t fun. It was painful. Even though rowing is painful, when you are doing well and at a faster speed, the pain is on the backburner. In that race, it just dragged on. That race motivated us to never make it feel like that again.”
The team proceeded to win the next five races but stumbled the week before NEIRAs. The last race against Hingham proved to be a wake-up call for G1, as it was the boat’s first loss since the Kent race. The loss, however, served as motivation for the team for the upcoming NEIRAs.
The last race of the season also signified the ending of the Andover rowing careers for eight Seniors. Their departure weighs heavily on the underclassmen that have looked up to them over the course of their own rowing careers. “The Seniors are going to be difficult to live up to,” said Whitney Garden ’17. “Every Senior on the team showed up day in and day out ready to work even harder than they did the day before, setting an example that inspired the team to push itself to be its best. Their love for the sport was clear to everyone, which set an amazing team environment, making even the hardest workouts a lot of fun.”
Closing out her career, Kemp was sentimental. “Rowing applies to real life for me. It instills in you the need to work hard. You will feel pain no matter what. I know I will remember rowing fondly as something that never came easy, but I know that we worked hard to go that extra mile.”
Andover Girls Crew will bring one boat to the Henley Royal Regatta on June 29. The prestigious regatta, held on the Thames River in the United Kingdom, will pit Andover against some of the top teams in the world.