The Ithaca College women’s rowing team has a legacy of success and plans to chase a national championship during the Spring 2020 season despite having a less-experienced team than in the past.
Senior captain Kelly Csernica said the team has lost some of its “big powerhouse” teammates to graduation in the last few years. She said the team has still been successful by capitalizing on physical fitness, mental toughness and team dynamic.
“It’s not necessarily the fastest eight people at the first boat and then the next eight people in the next boat because it’s a lot of how the boat works together,” Csernica said. “I think everyone’s really adaptable in terms of any seat, any boat, whatever’s going to make us the fastest.”
In 2019, the team won the Liberty League championship for the second year in a row, placed second at the New York state championships and finished fifth at the NCAA Division III championships. Head coach Becky Robinson said last season’s success has motivated the team this season.
“[At] the NCAAs, there’s trophies for places one, two, three, four and fifth is just out of that trophy range, so finishing top four is a really big goal,” Robinson said. “It was our goal last year, and we fell a little bit short, but we were right there. The athletes feel that, and they’re hungry for better.”
Robinson said the team also makes it a goal to win the Liberty League every year. The team that places first at the championship each year gets an automatic bid to the NCAA championship, and Robinson said this is the easiest method of getting a spot in the race. She also said it is the earliest opportunity for the Bombers to get in, and this helps them focus on other meets such as the New York state championships and National Invitational Rowing Championships.
Csernica said the team is not just focused on just one boat making nationals but rather all boats reaching their full potentials.
“There’s not just focus on one boat but really making sure that every boat is as fast as it can be,” Csernica said. “When you have each boat pushing the other ones to be faster, [there is] whole team success. For nationals, only two boats get to go, but we want to make sure there’s success throughout the whole team still.”
In order to achieve success throughout the entire team, both the varsity and novice boats must work together. The novice boats are predominantly freshmen and inexperienced rowers. Crew is unique among the teams at the college because many of the athletes come to the college having never rowed before. Csernica had never participated in crew before college and said that as a leader, it is important to make freshmen feel comfortable and motivated.
“There’s [an] accountability aspect of it of making sure that everyone’s here to work hard and keeping it serious at practice but also keeping the energy up, especially during these weeks when we’re not on the water, and we don’t get on the water until mid-March,” Csernica said.
Senior rower Libby Ryan, who has been rowing since her junior year of high school, said crew is different from most varsity teams because it does not matter how long you have been competing if you are willing to commit to the sport. Robinson said freshman rowers Finley Edmonds, Brenna Hanratty and Taylor Volmrich have been training alongside varsity boat members and will compete for a seat in one of the national competition boats.
“Some of my friends who are lacrosse players have literally been playing since they were six, and I didn’t start rowing until my junior year of high school,” Ryan said. “Even then I felt like I was late to the game. Coming in, I was labeled an ‘experienced freshman,’ but I still didn’t really have that much. It was just so cool to see that you could really come from nothing and finish amazing.”
Robinson said the senior leadership will also have a large impact on the Bombers’ success this season, especially in maintaining a high level of passion and bringing the team closer together. She said that she expects the athletes to not only push themselves to beat their personal bests but every member of the team as well. Robinson said she believes the senior class will do this in many different ways.
“There’s a lot of good leaders in the class, and what I think is really kind of unique is that they all have different leadership styles and skills,” Robinson said. “They’re doing a really nice job being a leadership net and pulling the rest of the group in.”
Ryan said that paying attention to the little details will contribute to the Bombers’ success this season as well. She said this is something that Robinson instilled in the team at the end of last year and will continue to focus on this season.
“I think you have new people every year who come in and you have people who leave, and their legacy is something that you want to live up to,” Ryan said. “We’ve incorporated this season that the little details matter. … There’s always a focus and always something we’re working towards.”
The Bombers will compete in their first home race of the season at 9 a.m. March 28 in the Cayuga Duals on the Cayuga Inlet.