By Bailey Knecht, sports editor
Two weeks after a strong showing at the Head of the Charles Regatta, the Northeastern University women’s rowing team competed at the Small Boat Challenge in West Windsor, N.J., this weekend.
“Small boat races are much more personal than an 8-boat race,” Head Coach Joe Wilhelm said. “There are no coxswains, so athletes have to steer themselves by looking behind them and keep themselves straight. It’s a very individual race, so there’s a lot of personal responsibility and accountability that we’re trying to instill in our athletes.”
In Friday’s time trials, junior Birgitta Husebye and freshman Madison Mailey took second place, while sophomore Hayley Oleksiak and junior Alaina Williams placed seventh in collegiate doubles. Each rower uses two oars in doubles sculling. Sophomores Heather Foti and Margaret Walsh ended in fifth place in the pair event, which uses one oar per rower.
Junior Katie O’Connell finished fifth in a singles race.
The rowers performed well, despite battling windy conditions on the water on Friday, Wilhelm said.
“The conditions on Friday were really tough — I would call them barely row-able,” he said. “Our athletes did a good job of staying aggressive. It wasn’t the cleanest rowing ever, but even when you can’t perform at your best, you can still be aggressive, you can still attack.”
After the time trials, the team competed in the finals on Saturday. In the collegiate double grand final, Husebye and Mailey rowed to a second-place overall finish.
Oleksiak and Williams finished eighth in the B final on Saturday, and Foti and Walsh took home fifth again in the A final.
“On Saturday morning, everybody raced even better,” Wilhelm said. “We were happy with the performances and with how people rowed and conducted themselves.”
O’Connell earned fourth place in the A final singles race. She was competing in her first ever singles event, according to Wilhelm.
“Everybody in that grand final had a lot more experience, but she’s a great athlete,” he said.
Wilhelm talked about one of the team’s strengths, which is its depth in terms of experience.
“I think every class we have is going to contribute to speed this year,” he said. “It’s a very balanced squad. We have a lot of seniors we’re going to graduate, but we’re not thinking of that yet — we’re just enjoying having them. Our younger athletes are working hard and bringing a real physical presence on the team.”
The Huskies have a few weeks off before their next race, the Foot of the Charles Regatta on Nov. 14.
“This race is another one that’s unique,” Wilhelm said. “It’s a four-mile race, which is something we don’t do very often. Most head races are three miles, so we’ve added on a mile to this. Our goal here is to take the pace that we’ve been rowing in three-mile races and just extend it to four miles. We’re taking what we’ve done and doing it at a more physical pace.”
Photo courtesy Mike Skovan, Northeastern Athletics