Men's crew remains undefeated

Midway into the race, the Jeff boat found itself behind by two seats. However, in the final 200 meters, Amherst pulled ahead with efficient and consistent stroking.

Amherst took advantage of a crucial Bowdoin error in order to take the victory. “It was extremely close coming into the sprint. Their stroke caught what is known as a crab with about 15 strokes to go. That is, he did not get his oar blade in the water square,” said captain Gabriel Ravel ’05. After the Bowdoin boat went slightly off-course, Amherst was able to coast to the victory.

The win over Bowdoin is extremely impressive given the traditional strength of its program. The Bowdoin men’s four finished second in the Marlow International Regatta last year, barely behind the Goldie Boat Club from Cambridge University. The team then competed in the prestigious Britannia Challenge Cup at the Henley Regatta in Ontario, Canada. Henley is organized in a draw and Bowdoin defeated the Isis Boat Club from Oxford University and Durham University before falling to Goldie, the eventual champion.

The win over a team with such credentials proves that Amherst’s men’s varsity four can stroke with the best in the nation. This spring’s men’s varsity four team consists of Matt Vanneman ’06 at stroke, Nat Green ’05 at three, Ravel at two, Ben Softness ’06 at bow and Xin Zheng ’05 at coxswain.

Ravel gave much credit to Zheng’s performance at coxswain. “[He] was in so many ways the engineer of our success. He kept us focused and got us to give everything we had even when we were trailing.”

Teamwork is key to a successful boat, and the men have truly gelled this season. “We have sort of a quirky dynamic between all of us, but for some reason it translates well on the water,” said Ravel. “I think we’ve been able to remain confident as a result of this.”

The men’s novice four and eight boats also competed at the Rimmele Cup. Both teams defeated Middlebury but fell to Bowdoin to finish second. The novice eight, manned by first-years Eric Glustrom, Chris Parkinson, Jordan Brower, Alex Sommer, Ashwin Rao, Sam Guzzardi, Alex Khurgin and Mo Zeidan with Caitlin Kekacs at coxswain lost to the Polar Bears by several boatlengths.

The novice four, manned by Parkinson, Glustrom, Sommer and Brower with Kekacs at coxswain were even with Bowdoin for most of the race. However, the boat lost in the final sprint, losing in the end by 10 seconds.

Though the women’s varsity four finished third this past weekend, the women won their first two races of the season. With only three team members returning to the varsity boat, the women “are having what teams call a ‘rebuilding year,'” said co-captain Erin Kirkham ’04.

Kirkham, Wendy Brill ’04, co-captain Alyssa Katzenelson ’06 and Ilse Van Meerbeek ’07 with Allyx Hadley ’07 at coxswain make up the varsity four. The team lost to second-place Middlebury by 18 seconds.

The women’s novice fours were coming off of a big win over UMass- Lowell the previous weekend, winning by nearly 20 seconds. The boat could not repeat its performance at home, however, finishing 12 seconds behind the Middlebury novice second team.

The vast improvement in the 2003-04 crew team has many sources. The biggest difference is in the offseason training regiment.

“This year’s offseason schedule was rigorous, organized and focused,” said Ravel. “Coach Bill Stekl also deserves credit for the excellent job he has done with the team. He has preached that the team focus on shorter intervals in order to fight fatigue.”

Next weekend’s Little Three regatta in Pittsfield, Mass. will conclude the regular season. Subsequently, the teams will compete at New England Fours, New England Championships and the ECAC Regatta in Worcester.

The men have lofty goals for the postseason schedule.

“I think we would all like to continue to go undefeated for the rest of the season and perhaps win gold at some of these regattas,” said Ravel.

The women would also like to put in strong performances for the remainder of the season.

“[Our goal is] to row as well as we can and to be as competitive as we can be,” said Kirkham.