For Dale Hurley, Head Coach of Andover Girls Crew, March 12 marked the beginning of a week-long trip away from the still-frozen Merrimack River and what remained of the 108 inches of snow that fell in the Boston area this winter.
For the next 19 hours, Hurley drove away from the New England climate towards Oak Ridge, Tennessee. There, he met around 40 rowers for a six-day preseason camp.
This year marked the first year that Andover Girls Crew made the preseason trip to Tennessee. Led by Co-Captains Elizabeth Kemp ’15 and Qiqi Ren ’15, the team looks to improve on its 1-6 record last season and claim a long-awaited victory at the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association Championships (NEIRA’s).
Last year, G1 finished the season with a 1-6 record and placed 5th at NEIRA’s. G2 also placed 5th at NEIRA’s, but had a 2-5 record. G3 fared better than the top two boats with a 4-2 record and a third place finish at NEIRA’s.
“I can remember the exact moment we crossed that 2000 meter mark last year in the finals,” wrote Kemp in an email to The Phillipian. “What has stuck with me and the girls in front of and behind me [in the boat] all year is the feeling that we could have done more. There is nothing that motivates you more than a feeling of being so close to your goal and it slipping away from you.”
After undergoing intense training in Tennessee, the team hopes to get off to a quick start. There is a sense of optimism about the season due to the hard work that the team put in during preseason.
“As a coxswain, I believe that this trip was a huge success for our team,” wrote Katherine Santoro ’15 in an email to The Phillipian. “We were all able to spend several hours each day honing our technical precision and focus. With such a prolonged winter, we stand the risk of losing ground compared to our competitors in warmer climates. But from my seat in the boat, I could see the incredible progress we made.”
Because frigid weather forced the cancellation of Andover’s preseason on the Merrimack, the trip to Tennessee became even more important.
Coach Hurley said, “When we came back for [Andover] preseason, we were only able to practice on the ergometers, which was not ideal, so we had to do what we could on the ergometers. The erg hampered us technically, so we were focusing on different things that were going to help us when we got back on the water.”
“It will be hard to focus on technique for the first couple weeks with the water so high this year,” said Vienna Kuhn ’16, who rowed on G1 last year. “I think as a team we need to focus on using all of our strengths together, rather than focusing on individuals. A boat that works well together can easily beat a stronger boat that is disconnected.”
Coach Hurley acknowledged that the team has a number of formidable opponents this year.
“It is pretty standard. The big teams this year will be Exeter and Kent. Kent is our second race this season, and they will be very fast,” he said.
He also recognized St. Paul’s and Hingham as strong opponents. “Those teams are the four that beat us last year and those are the ones we are going after now,” he said.
Ren has high expectations for all of the Seniors on the team. “We did not lose too many Seniors this year, so I think we will continue to be very strong, especially since we have a strong Senior class this year,” she said.
This strength from the Senior class, combined with an infusion of talented underclassmen, sets Andover up for a season of improvement, inching closer and closer to its competitors.
“I foresee us doing better than we did last year,” said Hurley. “The experience wasn’t strong in the finals last year because we hadn’t been in the finals in a long time, but last year we had all three boats in the finals and that will help us this year to go for something more.”
Andover’s first race, weather pending, is against Simsbury, Glastonbury and Essex on April 4.