Though sophomore Dominique Lessard has not competed in a regatta for the women’s crew this spring, she has made a vital contribution to the Bombers’ goal of earning a bid to the NCAA Championships.
Lessard, who competed in the sixth seat of the second novice 8 boat last season, suffered a back injury that has forced her out of competition this season. Before the crew’s first regatta March 31, she made a banner with the words “Fly Together” written on a sheet in blue and gold paint to remind everyone of the importance of unity in achieving their goals.
Sophomore Kelly Parker, the coxswain for the Blue and Gold’s third varsity 8 boat, said Lessard’s unfortunate circumstance at the beginning of the season reminded members of the crew to not take anything for granted.
“Dom was the one who encouraged people to work harder, and she had a huge setback,” Parker said. “But by her having a setback, it motivates others to push forward. Even though she can’t be on the water with us, she’s still motivating in her own way.”
Sophomore Lindsey Miller, who coxes the second varsity 8, said the team always thinks about Lessard during races.
“It definitely has brought us down a bit, but we take that and we row for her,” Miller said. “We take strokes on the water for her, and today we took five strokes for unity and being one and rowing for those who can’t.”
Lessard is one of many Bombers to make these kind of motivational banners, which are hung on the Route 89 overpass near Cayuga Inlet during home regattas. This year’s senior class of rowers made a banner that reads “Drop Bombs.”
Junior Madison Vander Hill, a member of the first varsity 8 boat, said the longtime tradition of the South Hill squad’s varsity rowers making these signs had to be altered this season.
“Each senior class would sneak up there and paint something up on the bridge, but we had to take it down,” she said. “To make up for it, we’ve really been trying to stick with the team spirit and have banners that we can hang from the bridges that say the same things that the paint had said.”
Chants of “IC, IC” and “Let’s Go Ithaca” resound from the bridge as each boat travels under the overpass during a regatta. Members of the other boats wave the banners to encourage their teammates along with the other spectators.
To enhance the external excitement surrounding each regatta, the coxswains in each boat have found ways to motivate the groups of rowers as they race across the inlet. Parker said she often tries to go beyond her duties of directing the crew through the water.
“A coxswain’s main job is to steer the boat, but since you’re in there already you might as well put a microphone on and scream and yell and motivate your team,” she said.
Sophomore Barbara Mitchell, who rows in the novice 8, said her boat’s coxswain provides inspiration during races when she tells the members of the boat to begin rowing 10 strokes of special effort.
“When she does our power 10s, she does one stroke for everyone in the boat,”
Mitchell said. “That always gets each of us going because we know we’re pulling for each other.”
The Bombers’ motivation has carried over quickly into spring competition, as it took second place in the first and second varsity 8 boat races in the season-opening regatta. Their second varsity 8, novice 8, and novice 4 boats had top finishes against University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday. After the crew faces Skidmore College and St. Lawrence University this Saturday, they will be on the road for the remaining five regattas in the regular season.
With no timetable for Lessard’s return, the crew will continue to practice its tradition of involving all of its members on the day of each race. Miller said the Blue and Gold are heading into the heart of the regular season with an optimistic outlook because the crew has built a solid foundation of inspiration, support and confidence between all of its varsity and novice rowers.
“Even though we have three different boats, we come together off the water and on land as one team,” she said.