Men’s ‘ Women’s Crew: Chilling, or not, on the Charles

Men’s ‘ Women’s Crew: Chilling, or not, on the Charles

When the Northeastern men’s crew team competes in the first race of the season on Friday in Redwood City, CA., the prospect of facing squads from warmer climates will no longer be such a chilling reality.

Instead of training indoors all winter, the unseasonably mild temperatures across the region allowed the Huskies to get in a few early strokes along the Charles River.

“We stayed in Boston for our spring break this year just because of the weather, and we were able to row everyday,” men’s crew captain Will Miller said. “That was a great thing, being able to spend our time here and kind of get to know the river just a little bit more extensively.”

Women’s crew coach Joe Wilhelm agreed and said his team, which has its first race of the season on Saturday in the Rowlands Cup, was able to “get on the water maybe 10 or 15 days that we wouldn’t normally have been able to.”

“It’s been nice to get on the water and become closer to our racing speed earlier in the season,” Wilhelm said.

There have been a few instances when crew teams could hold winter practices outdoors, Wilhelm said, reflecting on his 15-year tenure with Northeastern that dates back to when he began as the assistant men’s coach in 1991.

None, he said, were within recent memory.

“It’s not completely accurate to say it didn’t freeze at all [this year], because there were some days when the river had frozen,” Wilhelm said.

The early start may not make a significant difference on the season by the season’s end, Wilhelm said, but its impact was visible during the women’s team training visit to Cocoa Beach, Fla., over spring break.

“I could see that we were already rowing at a fairly proficient level, whereas it usually takes a few days to make the transition from rowing in the tanks to rowing in the water,” he said.

For freshman crew member Francie Shafer, practicing outdoors provided a new meaning to the phrase “dressing for success.”

“You get really good at the art of layering,” Shafer said.

Wool socks, for instance, become essential, “because your feet are the only thing that aren’t moving, so your toes can get really cold,” Shafer said.

Another necessity for the team was wearing pogies: a fleece, glove-like covering worn over a rower’s hand and then slipped over the oar, which keeps fingers warm and unexposed during continual movement.

By taking advantage of the climate, the men’s crew team is “definitely faster” than it was at this time last year, sophomore rower Steve LaChance said.

“We’ve gotten at least tenfold the water time practice this year, and it’s been tremendously helpful,” LaChance said. “It’s always much more enjoyable to be out in the water, minus the absolutely freezing cold days when you get splashed.”

As a result,Miller said his team is more prepared for the season ahead.

“We’ve been able to kind of combine our off-the-water training with our on-the-water training throughout the winter, and it’s had some pretty good results,” he said.

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