By Pat Mariboe
After a successful fall season outing for the Washington College crew team, in which both the men and women’s team featured in a combined five regattas, men’s Head Coach John Leekley is looking to head into the spring season with confidence.
“The guys gained a lot of confidence in the fall at our last two races where we raced very well against some strong schools, and that extended into winter training,” said Leekley. “We’ve seen some solid erg scores in comparison to previous years so far this winter, too. I’m hopeful that they will race confidently this spring too, and we’ll see some good results.”
This past fall the Shoremen participated in the Navy Day Regatta, Head of the Occoquan, and Frostbite Regatta, while the Shorewomen participated in the Occoquan Chase. Both teams featured in the Head of Charles, in which the men’s team picked up a 25th place finish out of 41 teams, while the women picked up a 25th place finish out of 32 teams.
Sophomore Jack Despeaux, a first year walk-on athlete, is excited with the work that the team put in last season and looks forward to competing again in the spring.
“Being in the novice boat, the guys I rowed with had a lot of learning to do technique-wise,” said Despeaux. “We were all strong enough that we could hold our own so we knew that with a little more development, our boat would be a force to be reckoned with. I think we’ll cash that paycheck this spring, especially with how much work we’ve put into the winter. Our varsity boats are only getting better, too, so I think we’ll see even greater things from them.”
When it comes to the offseason winter training, both teams have been putting in countless hours of work in the training room and on the erg machines to make sure they’re ready come March. When asked about the team’s training routine this winter, Leekley had a lot to say about the overall dynamic of the team and what he hopes to get out of the hard work that each athlete is putting in.
“You do something different every year certainly,” said Leekley. “We’ve been building on a lot of what we did last spring and this past fall both on the erg and in the weight room. I think the current focus on a strong team culture is important for this year. We’ve spent some time talking about why we’re doing this [rowing] at 6 a.m. for instance and what the core values of the program should be. One of them has to be trust, and you have to earn it from your teammates by showing them that you’re willing to work and go the extra mile when the time comes. It’s not an easy sport, not that any are, and its very hard to be fast, so this winter is really about building your teammate’s trust.”
The men’s team looks to kick off their season at the Mayor’s Cup on March 19 in West Windsor, N.J., while the women’s team will compete in the Murphy Cup on on March 26 in Cherry Hill, N.J. Both teams have a long stretch of regattas in April, but the headliner is the Mid-Atlantic Rowing Conference Championships, which Leekley is looking forward to competing in.
“The expectation is always that they put out the best race possible during the heats at the NIRC,” said Leekley. “We did better last year than 2014, and you always hope to do better each year. If the guys race like they’re capable of, then we’ll be in a good place. It’s a very fast race and very competitive, and only their best effort all year during practice and then on race day will give them a shot.”