Photo from Kirk Denee
The Drake rowing team accomplished something that no crew team had ever accomplished: winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Coast championship.
The Bulldogs captured the 2012 MAAC championship on Lake Mercer in Windsor, N.J. on Saturday after barely beating out powerhouse Marist by two points. Drake finished with 33 points.
The results are calculated from three races (Varsity 8, Varsity 4 and second Varsity 8) to determine the overall winner.
“When we found out that we had won conference that was the most gratifying moment in my rowing career,” said senior captain Kat Moore.
Drake had earned second place finishes at both the Varsity 4 and second Varsity 8 races. Marist had finished third in the Varsity 4 race, but had claimed the second Varsity 8 victory. In order to win the conference the Bulldogs’ Varsity 8 squad had to pull through and win their race.
“They were out there in the water not knowing that they needed to win,” said junior stroke seat Megan Bannister. “The Varsity 8 had seen Marist in Connecticut before. We knew they were going to be very fast, we knew they were going to be a major contender and someone to watch out for, and that ended up being the case.”
Yet, even if the Varsity 8 team didn’t know that its victory was absolutely necessary to take home the title, the team was focused on winning the race. If there’s a tie after the three races the tiebreaker goes to whoever wins the Varsity 8 race.
“We needed to win the Varsity 8 no matter what. We just needed it,” Moore said.
After the Varsity 8 race the Bulldogs had to wait a while for the results. The race was decided by less than a tenth of a second and the officiating crew spent 30 minutes going over video replay.
Moore thought they had lost the race.
“I thought we had lost it by only a couple feet. We thought the finish line was farther than it was,” Moore said. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized the finish line was a lot earlier than I thought and we actually had a chance.”
Freshman Jacque Nowers (coxswain) led the team to believe the finish line was actually a few feet more ahead to get them to finish the race with a lot of energy.
Seniors Moore, Susan Goulette, Madi Perington, sophomores Brittney Michael, Jessica Nightser and freshmen Maggie Benhart , Emily Householter, Sarah Travis and Nowers (coxswain) finished with a time of 6:52.8 in the Varsity 8 race.
“The Varsity 8 race today (Saturday) was one of the best races I have ever seen,” said head coach Charlie DiSilvestro in a Drake athletics press release. “Timing really plays a part of rowing and I’m so proud of how the team competed together. The conference championship came down to the last stroke of the very last race and we came out on top today against Marist, who is a great team with great tradition. We were lucky today to come out on top but it is a perfect way to end the season.”
Senior Brittany Smith, juniors Andrea Piekarczyk, Kristina Vann and Bannister, sophomores Justin Choe and Mallory Bonstrom and freshmen Megan Friel, Brianna Leinon, Hannah Hennessy (coxswain) finished with a a time of 7:22.4 in the second Varsity 8 race, which earned them second place behind Marist (7:18.3).
Freshmen Wenel Jais-Cross, Hannah Powers, Leinon, Friel and sophomore Monica Worsley (Coxswain) took second place in the Varsity 4 race with a time of 8:17.8.
Bannister commented on DiSilvestro’s confidence in the squad heading into the conference championship.
“He was pretty confident in us placing in the conference,” Bannister said. “We’ve been really amping up our training. We’ve been training for this. It was nice to see it all work out.”
The Bulldogs joined the MAAC in 2009 and competed in their first conference championship in 2010, where they finished in fourth place. The following year, the championship was cancelled due to weather. This time, Drake claimed its first title.
Next year, the MACC winner will receive an automatic bid to advance to the NCAA Rowing Championship for the first time. A conference must support at least six teams to be eligible to receive a bid.
The Bulldogs still have one final competition left this season, the Dad Vail Championships in Philadelphia, Pa. next Saturday.