WOMEN’S SQUAD 2018 REVIEW
It was hard to imagine a more discouraging start to the spring season.
An early March trip to Natchitoches, LA to face Texas and Vanderbilt got away from the Tulane women early, as both the varsity and novice eights fell behind immediately and never had any impact on their races. The varsity finished 36 seconds astern of Texas; the novices fell by 27 to Vanderbilt.
Although Tulane saved a little face later in the day during the fours racing, one thing was clear: this was going to take a lot of work.
Progress came, but it was slow. Speed picked up but the crews were nowhere near where they needed to be, and another tough day at the Hunter Regatta in Georgia at the end of March showed that major surgery was needed.
Seats got switched. Lineups got shuffled and a strong core of novices was given the chance to fight for a varsity spot. Things started to click a little bit. Better race performances, admittedly against weaker crews, helped build some confidence. But our championship, SIRA, and the 65 rowing programs entered there, sat right around the corner.
Their best row of the season got the varsity eight into the semifinals, but that semis race found them one spot shy of the final. The crew headed into the B final looking for a win—but in the lane right next to them was … Texas.
The Longhorns led off the starting line with the rest of the field falling back quickly, except for Tulane which had settled in a half-length behind. During the body of the race the Wave crew rowed through Texas, took a three-quarter length lead, and held off a desperation sprint to win by a quarter of a length. It was a 40 second turnaround in six weeks, and seventh place overall was an improvement of three
places from last season.
And the novices? A tough semifinal found them in the B Final as well, believe it or not in a lane next to Vanderbilt. A back and forth battle between those two crews developed as the rest of the field fell back, and in the end it was Tulane by a little over a second. The seventh place overall matched the varsity eight’s performance as well as the novice women’s finish last year.
We’re not satisfied yet, but that was a long way to come in a month and a half.
For the Nationals, the program put together a varsity four and double for the trip to Gainesville, GA and the 1996 Olympic course. After the first round, the women in the double were clearly the third fastest crew in the event, and despite trying tactically to see if the calculus on that could be changed for the better in the semifinals and finals it couldn’t. A well-deserved bronze medal was the reward.
The four struggled in the first round and was headed to the C level final for its last row of the season.
Despite foggy conditions and a long delay waiting at the start, the women held their nerve to win the race for 17th overall (the nationals use an eight lane course instead of six). There are signs of progress, and the numbers should be up a bit next year to make the fight for seats in the top crews more competitive: of all the men and women eligible to return next fall (that is, they haven’t graduated or are not going abroad) all of the men and all but one of the women have indicated plans to return.
MEN’S SQUAD 2018 REVIEW
A solid fall season had shown a lot of promise for the young Tulane men’s squad and a winter of spirited hard work had followed. So, when the Wave lined up against Texas and Vanderbilt in Natchitoches, LA it was encouraging to watch the novice eight open the team’s season with a blowout—very possibly winning every stroke of the race on its way to a ten-length victory. The varsity four followed by leading all the way until a late Texas sprint pushed Tulane into second, easily ahead of Vanderbilt.
Unfortunately, the varsity eight was not ready at the start, and finished well back, but Vanderbilt and Tulane staged a re-row which the Commodores won by a much smaller length and a quarter margin after a spirited half-length battle most of the way.
Other than a short-handed varsity crew struggling at the Hunter Regatta in mid-season, the crews managed to keep their opening day form through the regular season and approached the Southern Championships with high hopes. A strong field pushed the varsity crew into the B finals after their quite creditable early rounds, and the well-earned eventual 3rd place (9th overall) was a small consolation to the crew members who had placed 20th overall in 2017.
The novice crew, probable medal contenders, had a problem however. One of the crew had developed a fever serious enough that he had to withdraw from school and return home, leaving an empty seat with no eligible team members to fill it. Using an ineligible rower was never an option, while breaking down into a four and leaving three members at home was a cruel alternative. When the crew members were presented with the option of racing as a coxed seven (not prohibited by any rules of racing) they jumped at the chance—deciding they had done it together all year and would finish together.
Quite a few eyebrows were raised at the race course when the crew advanced to the semifinals! Asking them to replicate that effort a few hours later was too much, and Tulane was into the B final the next morning. And what a morning it was: trailing the field but still in contact, the crew moved from sixth to fourth during the middle of the race and threatened to take third—until they were hit by an inexcusable wake from the TV/video boat. They finished sixth, sprinting hard all the way. It was an extremely gallant effort.
With many team members unavailable because of academic or other commitments, a novice four was the only men’s crew to race the post season. A trip to Nashville for the ACRA Henley stamped the crew as a contender as they won three races in a rout and lost a hairsbreadth decision to North Carolina in the final. At the ACRA Nationals in Gainesville, GA the crew put together three excellent performances, advancing to the final with a good chance to medal or win outright. An exciting five-way fight to the finish saw the Wave just miss the podium, but the effort and quality were an appropriate finish to a season that saw this group help reinvigorate the program with its work effort and spirit.
There are signs of significant progress, and as with the women the numbers will be up on next year’s squad to make the fight for seats in the top crews more competitive: of all the men and women eligible to return next fall (that is, they haven’t graduated or are not going abroad) all of the men and all but one of the women have indicated plans to return.