That was how first-year Stetson Rowing head coach Mark Wilson described his team's results at the first day of the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships at the Melton Lake Racing Venue in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
“I was so impressed with the racing today from our entire team, the rowers became racers today!” Wilson said. "The Men’s Novice 8, Women’s Novice 8, Women’s Varsity 4, and Women’s Lightweight Varsity 4 all traveled to Tennessee to make a statement and today they did just that."
SIRA has been a serious regatta for over 30 years and this year has grown in depth and experienced crews with teams coming from Washington DC, Philadelphia, Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and even San Diego. The total team count was 57 teams from 21 states.
"Our student-athletes came here for the business of racing on the great course and showing their best, which they did today," Wilson said.
The racing started with the Women’s Novice 8 finishing fourth in its heat with a time of 7:56 behind High Point, Vanderbilt, and Washington U. Their race event had 23 teams entered so the progression was the top three crews in four heats went on to the A/B semi finals and then the next six fastest times advanced to the C Final. The Hatters raced really well and were overstroked during most of the race but stayed true to their race plan and even though they did not make the A/B semi’s still had a fast enough time to make the C finals.
The Women's Novice 8 crew went out in the evening and laid down a season-best time of 7:53 in the C Final and finished third.
“I was so proud of this group of young women,” Wilson said. “They just started rowing in January and saw the water for the first time in February. They are responsive, excited, and a great group to coach!”
Next, the Men’s Novice 8 raced in one of the most competitive events in the entire regatta. Nationally-ranked and recruited teams such as Delaware, George Washington, and Purdue, a total of 24 teams in all, were entered in the race, creating four heats of six boats each. The Hatters went to the line and drew the number one seed of George Washington who laid down a great time of 6:13, then Delaware at 6:23, Vanderbilt at 6:29, Stetson a season-best 6:48, Miami (Ohio) 6:52.3, and Clemson 6:52.8.
The crew was in a fight for the whole race and did a fantastic job in the final 250 meters as they sprinted into a slim lead to earn them the second-fastest time of those crews not going directly to the A/B finals.
“I was really impressed with the changes in the lineup and the racing that these guys did today,” first-year assistant coach James Dietz said. “We talked about length and power and they really did it today! I was really pumped to see them race the finish and give it all and have a great time.”
The Men’s Novice 8 later raced in the C Finals in the evening and finished a very respectable third to Notre Dame (6:34) and Florida State (6:46). Stetson posted a new season-best time of 6:48, followed by Murray State (6:52), Miami (Ohio) (6:58), and Clemson (7:00).
The Women’s Lightweight 4 received some interesting news prior to its heat races. As the Hatters were in their warm up they were told one of the teams did not make weight and that their event was to go directly to the A Final. This was a big shock to the team but they took it in stride and followed the directions of regatta officials and rowed the course for a good practice. They came off the water really excited to go out on Sunday and show what they have and work to the medal stand.
The Women’s Varsity 4 was full of surprises for Coach Wilson. The team was competing in one of the most loaded events with 23 other teams in the event. The Hatters went to the heat race with the goal of racing again and beating somebody, anybody. Well they came off the line like a rocket and just kept going and raced to a very easy third-place finish behind Nova Southeastern and Florida State but ahead of the College of Charleston, Texas and Purdue. The effort gave the team the opportunity to race in the A/B Semi Final.
Coach Wilson was so pleased with these results and he felt that whatever happened later would mean the team was racing on Sunday which is always the goal at such a big regatta.
What came next was very emotional. The Four led by Senior Coxswain Erin Lee, and stroked by Cathleen Vogelsgang, Shannon McCarthy, Julia Pearce, and Bow Chloe Blackletter went into the A/B Semi and finished third again just edging out George Washington University to earn a spot in the Grand Final (top six crews of the region).
“I rode my bike and yelled the whole way, I just kept saying GO, GO, GO and yelling their names," Wilson said. "I was just so excited for these girls! The message today was that these women evolved from rowers to RACERS today! I was just so impressed with their desire and it was so great to see.”
Results from their race put Central Oklahoma University in first with a time of 8:02, followed by Nova Southeastern (8:10), Stetson (8:17), George Washington (8:19), Tampa (8:22) and Jacksonville (8:58).
The Lightweight and Open 4 will race on Sunday Morning in the A finals then the team will return to Stetson University.
Women’s Novice 8 – Cox Mike Austin, Tabitha Petri, Shelby Curren, Kaytlynn Sorensen, Adrienne DeVita, Trixi Menge, Amber Quigly, Savanna Wharton-Lake, Sheree Carter.
Men’s Novice 8 – Cox Katie , David Crosby, Jackson Reddick, David Nutting, Jack Ulricksin, Harris Grumman, Tim Kile, Angelo Parkinson, and Bow Konnor Krieger.
Women’s Light 4 – Cox Madeline Briggs, Deonna Graham, Alicja Duda, Tori Teter, Kiara Urena
Women’s Open 4 – Cox Erin Lee, Cathleen Vogelsgang, Shannon McCarthy, Julia Pearce, and Chloe Blackletter