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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Crew recruits alumni for regatta reunion

Published: August 22, 2014
Section: Sports

Current and graduated members of the Brandeis Rowing Team will reunite along the Charles River on Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Second Annual Alumni Regatta.

Ellie Driscoll ’16, alumni secretary, stated that this regatta originated as a fundraising idea. “We thought it would be nice, instead of simply asking alumni to donate money, to have an event in which they could come back, get together, have some fun and support the team while they’re at it.”

This month, the crew team also launched the “Boat by an Inch” fundraising campaign. They hope to raise enough money to purchase a new shell, which is about $22,000. Anyone can buy an inch of the boat for $50.

The Regatta event is also an opportunity to expose new rowers to both the athletic part of crew and the family-like atmosphere of the Brandeis Rowing Team. The team hopes that President Fred Lawrence and Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel as well as the rest of the Brandeis community will come out to cheer on the team. Spectators can gather near the Charles at the Watch Factory at 185 Crescent Street.

The only other regatta that Brandeis hosts is the Halloween Regatta on Nov. 1, where teammates dress up in costume to race. Other fall events include the Textile Regatta, Quinsigamond Snake Regatta and the Head of the Fish held throughout the Northeast.

Captains Alexandra Libstag ’15 and Elliot Jo ’15 lead the team. Both believe that their integrity as captains is derived from their actions of being committed to the team and working diligently to set an example for teammates. “My most important responsibility as captain is leading the team by example through pushing myself every day to be a stronger rower and through cultivating a positive and motivational environment,” Libstag said.

The team has a varsity division and another novice division for students who have no experience or minimal high school-level rowing experience. According to Driscoll, most people who join each year have never rowed before. Jo joined the novice team as a first-year who struggled as an athlete. He credits his teammates with crew experience for keeping him on the team, thanks to their constant support when he had lost faith in himself.

Facing a change in coaches, the team is up against a new dynamic. The former coach had been with the crew team for six years, but has left to take a position at a Division II school. Catherine Davie, the new coach, does have previous Brandeis rowing experience—but as the novice coach. Despite the change in regime, the team plans to stand by their former coach’s aphorism: “We are the future, and the future starts today,” according to Nate Ennis ’15, team co-president. The team also anticipates a greater challenge in training during the upcoming year. In previous years, the team has been relegated to longer off-water training seasons due to more extreme and prolonged winters, giving them less time to practice rowing on the water.

In the upcoming season, the team strives to improve its competitiveness, especially at the Head of the Charles and the Dad Vail regattas. The Head of the Charles, during which more than 9,000 rowers descend upon Boston for a weekend every October, is one of the most prestigious races in the world and boasts Olympic and world champion rowers. Dad Vail is in early May on Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River. More than 100 American and Canadian colleges compete in this regatta, the largest collegiate regatta in America. To pose a greater threat to rival boats during these and other races, Libstag noted, “This is going to take strong mental and physical commitment. But when we cross the finish line, there will be no doubt that the commitment was worth it.”

Crew is a team sport unlike any other in the respect that a boat is most successful only if its members are synchronized. When one rower is off, the boat is less efficient and more vulnerable, so teammates rely on each other to keep the correct time and grow together. “You have to trust that they will give their best. No matter how fast you are, you can’t win the race if your other boat mates aren’t following you,” Jo said, explaining the importance of a boat’s coordination and respect. The whole is greater than the sum of the rowers’ parts.

Most mornings during the fall and spring, the crew team is witness to sunrises over the Charles. While Lipstag described it as “powerful,” and Jo said that it looks different to him every day, team co-president Bess Alshvang ’16 rarely notices it: “The majority of the time, we start off in the dark and suddenly realize it’s light out; when you’re rowing, your head must be in the boat, and your mind must be focused, so the sunrise goes unnoticed!”