The Radcliffe lightweight crew is aiming to pick up right where it left off last season, and the Head of the Charles offers an initiation into one of the sport’s most prestigious regattas. Whether aiding the team through injury, generating enthusiasm among spectators, or rowing in the boats, Radcliffe’s freshmen are eagerly anticipating this weekend’s events.
“Excellence is no longer our goal but our standard,” captain Grace Hollowell writes in an e-mail. “We’re also working to integrate our freshmen into the program smoothly, forming a cohesive team, forming a uniform technique, physical power, and attitude.”
One freshman, Erin Flynn, is already well on her way to meeting these standards despite entering the season on the assumption that she would remain on the banks for the entire fall. Shoulder surgery in July to repair a torn rotator cuff prevented Flynn from rowing, but the freshman responded with some flexibility of her own by taking up a position as the team’s third coxswain.
Learning a new position at the collegiate level brings a new level of challenge and responsibility, especially when one considers that the coxswain is responsible for guiding the boat safely to the finish line and executing the race strategy.
“This is both impressive and [shows] a great sense of dedication to the team,” Hollowell says.
Flynn knows the extreme bends and curves of the Charles River thanks to her high school experience at Head of the Charles when she raced a double last year.
“I was the stroke, I didn’t have to do any of the steering,” Flynn says. “I remember thinking that if I ever had the opportunity to row on the Charles, I would definitely take it. I feel really lucky being able to cox on the Charles.”
Flynn has already showed coach Heather Cartwright—who first floated the idea of coxing at the season-opening meeting—tremendous promise by adapting to the rhythm of a fast boat and navigating some of the most challenging turns of any race course.
Though the third varsity eight will not compete this weekend, Flynn will debut her new skill set at the Foot of the Charles Regatta early next month. But cheering from the banks of the river still offers ample opportunity for contributing to the team’s success.
“The upperclassmen have told me that, when we’re around the banks wearing our Radcliffe gear, alumni will come up to us and talk about their own Radcliffe experiences,” Flynn says. “I’m looking forward to being part of the team at this.”
Even rowers who are not taking to the water this weekend will be doing all that they can to support their program and show their pride for the Black and White.
“We certainly have our walk-on group participate to cheer on their teammates, [run the] traditional bake sale, and [sell] some logo gear to the public,” Cartwright says. “And they get to represent their team and talk about being a team member. It is the first time they are seen as a team member by the Radcliffe crew”
Freshmen Erika McCormick and Veronique Irwin will occupy the bow and two seats of the varsity eight this weekend. Both rowers have witnessed the spectacle of the event before. McCormick spent her junior and senior years of high school racing in the youth eight while Irwin twice attended the event as a spare with the Westside Rowing Club from her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.
McCormick is particularly excited that the Head of the Charles represents an annual gathering of the rowing community that spans so many generations of rowers and fans.
“People come from all around the world,” McCormick says. “You have young rowers, masters, and Olympic medalists. It is really an inspiring experience, and you get to see people who love the sport so much that they continue to compete until they’re very old.”