Mateo Vazquez ’21
On Friday afternoon the Trinity College men’s rowing team departed campus and made the four-hour drive to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to face off against some great crews from around the nation at the Knecht Cup. The lineup of crews that they had the chance to compete against provided them with a vast array of competition outside of their typical crews in the NESCAC and New England area. Some of the crews that were in the running included: Michigan, Virginia, Delaware Lightweights, North Carolina, Army and Ithaca. All these respectable crews have very fast programs and would be great competition for the Bantams throughout the weekend. At around 5:30, the team finally arrived at the course in New Jersey and were eager to get on the water and have a practice run on the actual race course. After a quick rig of the boats, they were soon off to a great practice on the water getting a feel for the course. Despite the weather conditions that turned from an overcast to a rain the crews persisted through and got in many good reps on the course giving them a good outlook of what was to be expected for tomorrow.
On Saturday morning the crews had expected to be met with a downpour, but instead the weather took a turn in their favor and hit a high of 85 degrees, a perfect day to race. The 1V had their first race at 10:30 that morning against the Delaware lightweights, North Carolina, and Virginia. The crew from the start was consistent and striking the competition down as one unit. Within the first few seconds of the race they had jumped out ahead of Virginia and were neck and neck with Delaware and North Carolina. They continued this trend all the way until the 1200-meter mark in which Delaware made their move and started to advance away from the rest slowly moving a seat up and up. However, Trinity coxswain and tri-captain Abby Hart ’19 called for a shift in the rate. The crew responded immediately, beautifully shifted together, which prevented Delaware from getting a large lead. Yet, North Carolina was still in the competition and responded to the increase as well still keeping the race neck and neck. At one point in the last 300 meters, it looked as if Trinity was going to take third and then it happened. From the shore, the crowd could hear Abby Hart ’19 call to the crew “up two in two that’s it…”
All at once, you could see the crew responding to the calls in the shift as the stroke and tri-captain Jack Reid ’19 surged the crew forward, increased the rate and pressure with each stroke they took off! It was quite clear that North Carolina was beat as they frantically tried to respond to the Bantam advance. However, it was too late for North Carolina because the Bantams were gone as they kept pushing and pushing to the line making a last effort to catch Delaware. They finished the first heat in second place with a time of 5.56.12. Just a mere 3.57 seconds behind the Delaware lightweights. The Bantams were able to secure a spot in the semi-finals, where if they did well would secure them a spot in the grand finals. While the sun beat down on the rest of the competition, the Bantams retreated to the bus with their bus driver, Carlos, as they hunkered down and rested up for the semi-finals later in the day.
That Saturday afternoon, as the heat was beginning to swelter, the crew once again took to the water to secure a spot to the grand finals on Sunday. In their semi-final heat, the Bantams had to face off against Mercyhurst, Michigan, Temple, North Carolina and the University of Connecticut. Throughout the semi-final the crews were relatively neck and neck off of the start, however, by the 1000 meter mark, the teams started to filter out and it became clear that the teams fighting for spots in the grand finals were Mercyhurst, Michigan, Trinity and Temple. This race once again came down to the last 500 meters of the race. Mercyhurst was out in front and maintain the lead but second and third place were still very much undecided. In the last 500 meters the crews started to make their moves Michigan lurched forward and Trinity followed just a seat behind still holding onto third place. Yet, right next to them was Temple trying to steal third to advance to the grand finals. However, the Bantams kept their composure and stuck to the good dynamics of rowing that contributed to their win earlier in the day. The crew was able to respond as a unit and surge the boat ahead of Temple by a second securing third place and a spot in the grand finals. This is a huge accomplishment for the crew alone since the Bantams haven’t advanced to a grand final round at the Knecht Cup since 2013.
Sunday afternoon was the day that the Bantams had been preparing for all weekend. It was the moment to finally put their training to the test and see how they stacked up against some fast crews that they would not have the chance to race against for the rest of the season. The teams that were in the grand final were Michigan, Delaware, Colgate, Mercyhurst, Trinity and Virginia. It was amazing to see the start of the race as it was quite clear that these crews in the final were some of the finest crews in the nation. As the official called “Attention! Go!” the sound to oar locks snapping and blades digging into the water filled the air, followed by the roar of the coxswains urging their crews forward. All of the crews were relatively consistent throughout the race until the last 500 meters when the pack started to separate. The University of Delaware and Colgate were in their own race as they surged forward and were battling it out for first far from the rest. Then, they were followed by Mercyhurst and the University of Michigan (who was favored to win). Not far behind them was Trinity making a valiant effort to get into the fight for the finish. While the race for first and second was over third place was separated by a few seconds apiece between the three crews. In the grand finals, first place went to the University of Delaware and second to Colgate and third to Michigan followed by Mercyhurst, Trinity, and Virginia.
If the Bantams take anything away from this weekend, it should be that they have made major strides since the start of the season. After the races I got the opportunity to speak with the other tri-captain and bowman Paul Swetz ’19. When asked about the team in general and this boat he stated “This is a great step in the right direction…not having been to the grand finals at the Knecht Cup since I’ve been here speaks volumes about this crew. This is a young boat that has a lot of potential in the last few weeks of the season to make an impact. But even more so moving forward in the next few years they have the opportunity to take that great step toward moving Trinity back into one of the top 25 crews. This is a special boat that I will always remember.” The crew is in a great position for the rest of the competition within their division. Even more so they have demonstrated to others that Trinity Rowing is a program amongst the top crews, and that the program can compete with the larger competition. After the results of the Knecht Cup the crew is in a good position for a very successful end of the season as they prepare these last few weeks for their tough competition at New England’s and NIRC. As the second varsity four seat Ry Wenk ’22 stated “success is only attainable if the entire team buys into the effort.” This past weekend demonstrated exactly those efforts in everyone on the team and is something that will continue to be a driving factor for this team moving forward. We wish them the best of luck in their upcoming races.