This weekend, the University of Virginia Women's Varsity and Men's Club Rowing teams traveled to Boston to compete in the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta. Attended by colleges across the country and rowing clubs from around the world, the Head of the Charles is the spectacle of the fall rowing season. And boy did Virginia show up.
The weekend began on Saturday morning with the Women's Alumni 8+. Virginia champions of years past were brought back together, finishing second behind a Michigan crew stroked by current Virginia assistant coach, Brett Sickler.
After winning by 45 seconds at last year's HOCR, the Virginia Men's Collegiate 4+ looked to repeat. While the .18 second margin over Michigan may not have been as comfortable, Will Courtney took home his second straight gold medal in the Collegiate 4+ event, along with coxswain Sarah Zillioux, Ty Saitta, Gage Wells, and Forrest Brown.
The Women's Varsity 4+ was the first Virginia boat to race on Sunday. The crew of coxswain Sarah McGovern, Hannah Yoest, Catherine Multari, Nina Vascotto, and Hannah Solis-Cohen placed 4th in the Championship 4+ event, 2nd among collegiate crews.
The Women's Varsity 8+ put up one of the more impressive 3rd place finishes possible. Finishing behind only the United States National Team and the Great 8 of Olympic scullers, the pride of the Women's program came in 1st among all collegiate boats in the Championship 8+ event. Few will ever experience the feeling of rowing ahead of the US Olympic team for over 16 minutes, yet coxswain Molly Frear, Kristine O'Brien, Fiona Schlesinger, Brandy Herald, Susanne Grainger, Chandler Lally, Holly Nixon, Sarah Cowburn, and Hemingway Benton did just that. The defending champions have proven they will not relinquish their title without a fight.
In the same race, the second Varsity 8+ of coxswain Sarah Jordan, Lizzy Youngling, Elle Murray, Kaitlin Fanikos, Maggie Bowman-Jones, Maddie Hilbrant, Chelsea Adams, Betsy Nilan, and Veronica Jones took 15th overall, 2nd place among 2nd Varsity 8+'s.
The Men's Varsity 8+ looked to avenge their 2nd place finish in last year's HOCR, and avenge they did, taking first place over rival Michigan in the Collegiate 8+ event. Ed Crocker and Peter Malm received their second HOCR gold medals, joined by coxswain Katie Garrity, Jonathan Furlong, Ben Hammond, Perry Cox, Scott Stuard, Steven Lee-Kramer, and Garrett Thomas. With a great performance so early in the year, the signs of a spectacular spring season are all in place. Big things are coming for the Virginia 1V8.
Finally, the Virginia Men unveiled their first Lightweight 8+ entry in 30 years. The HOCR announcer put it best: "This is the first University of Virginia [lightweight] crew in 30 years... 30 years. That's because they're growing the whole program down there. That's great. They're back! 30 years for their lightweights. They're back and they're really back. They're looking good. Well done Cavaliers." Coxswain Charlene Friel, John McNulty, Charlie Hanley, Edwin Nieves, Bert Udler, Nick Hine, Jon Byington, Ethan Bauer, and Nate Brown fought hard against 16 of the best lightweight programs in the nation, and you can bet this boat will be among the top tier of these programs in the years to come.
Also to be mentioned is Virginia Men's Rowing alum Matt Miller, who participated in the Men's Championship Double event, rowing for the Potomac Boat Club. Competing against 3 Tideway Sculler doubles consisting of several Olympians, Miller took 2nd place! This incredible finish obviously bodes well for Miller's Olympic goals.
University of Virginia rowers from both sides of the boathouse will be returning from Boston with fistfuls of momentum that will be crucial in the title defenses of both teams. Here's to another fantastic season, and here's to Virginia Rowing!