Photo: Monica Worsley
A year after missing out on third place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship by one point, the Drake crew members are hoping to redeem themselves.
On Sunday, the rowing team will compete in the MAAC Championship in Princeton, N.J., against seven other teams.
“Our goal, like the other teams, is to win conference and, at the very least, finish better than last year,” head coach Charlie DiSilvestro said.
Freshman Taylor Armstrong said taking the conference title would be the ultimate way for the team to see that all of its hard work paid off.
“Winning conference would mean that every time we’ve ever wondered why we wake up so early, doubted our ability, questioned our commitment and felt discouraged was senseless,” Armstrong said.
On April 2, Drake’s varsity 8 boat beat boats from fellow conference teams Fairfield, Iona and Sacred Heart to win the MAAC Invitational.
Drake has yet to race additional conference teams, such as Marist, Manhattan, defending champion Loyola-Maryland and newest member Robert Morris.
“We know the competition’s good, and everyone is gearing up,” DiSilvestro said. “We’ve yet to see the second half of our conference, so going into this weekend the girls need to be there mentally and physically, ready to fight it out stroke for stroke. We can’t be overconfident going in.”
The champion will be determined by the finish times of each team’s varsity 8, junior varsity 8 and varsity 4 boats. The races will proceed in that order. Provided that there are no weather complications, the races will begin at 10 a.m., and the 2011 MAAC champion will be determined slightly after 11 a.m.
Determination of the champion in this manner is new to the MAAC this year.
Last year, the NCAA passed a ruling that the conference champion will automatically qualify to compete at the NCAA rowing championship starting in 2013. For this reason, the MAAC has decided to adopt the NCAA competition format.
“This year it is, once again, a new ball game,” assistant coach Jaclyn Aldworth said. “This change is to follow the NCAA championship format and to act as a practice run for teams. If our team can finish well without any seniors, it puts us in a good place for the coming seasons.”
This change requires that teams race 20 different rowers and three coxswains. In previous years, teams were able to place the same rowers in multiple races to ensure optimal finishes.
“I really like this race format. It shows the depth of a team because every rower is rowing for points,” DiSilvestro said. “You can’t just row your best rowers. Now the novice [rowers] and all the girls contribute significantly to the win.”
After the MAAC champion is determined, additional races will be held. Drake plans to enter two boats in the open 4+ category and a single boat in the novice 4+ category. These races will not count for points, but are meant to further gage the teams’ abilities.
“With conference only a few days away, we need to be completely invested in practice,” junior Brittney Smith said. “We’ve been working hard at practice all year but specifically in the weeks leading up to conference. Winning the MAAC is the ultimate reward and I think we are ready to fight for it.”