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Lightweight rowing cruises at Head of the American regatta on Lake Natoma

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After seizing top-five finishes across the board at the Head of the Charles regatta last weekend in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Stanford women’s lightweight rowing fought against harsh competition and fatigue to remain strong at the Head of the American regatta on a balmy Folsom Saturday afternoon. With this regatta, the team concludes the head-race-oriented fall season with both of the Varsity Eights finishing in the top eight of 21 crews and the Four at 12th place. 

The head race competition is especially brutal, both mentally and physically. Compared to sprint races in the spring, a head race is much longer and requires a steady and contained synchronized power from all participants. With boats starting usually 20 to 25 seconds apart from one another, the race can be solitary at times without constantly having another boat within one’s periphery. The head race, with twists and turns as the race course meanders, places a peculiar emphasis on the coxswain’s steering technique and an unparalleled amount of trust among teammates. The Head of the American, a race of 5 kilometers, is one such ordeal. 

With junior Kira Jan at the coxswain seat and junior Claire Smythe at stroke, the first Varsity Eight took fourth place overall with the time of 17:29.0. Despite having to adjust their starting position a couple of times and a rather choppy start, the crew quickly regained control and steadied their rhythm after the first 200 meters. The crew, edging out the fifth-place Cal B team with a margin of two seconds, was only ten seconds shy from becoming a top-3 finisher. Also worth mentioning is that despite a new lineup comprising of rowers from both the Eight and the Four from the regatta in Cambridge, the boat powered through as a collective. 

The second Stanford Eight finished eighth with a time of 17:46.3, roughly 15 seconds from the first boat, topping both California’s C and D teams. Especially praiseworthy was their sprint to the finish line, where they placed themselves in an advantageous position from Cal B and increased their lead with clean and crisp strokes at a higher rate. The Women’s Collegiate 8+ event — which featured powerhouses such as Stanford, Cal, Washington, and San Diego State — was especially competitive, with top ten finishers crammed within a one-minute range. 

The Cardinal 4+ entered the competition an hour later and snatched a 12th place finish, clocking 22:19.1. Led by coxswain Nicola Buskirk, the team was comprised of sophomore stroke Clara Everett, sophomore middle pair Kendall Titus and Mary Cooper and junior bow Krithi Reddy. Despite racing together for the first time, the young Cardinal rowers persisted and pushed their way through the last buoy. Washington State, San Diego State and Oregon State claimed top three in this event. 

Comprehensive Lineup for the Eights:

1st 8+: C – Kira Jan/ 8 – Claire Smythe/ 7 – Emily Molins/ 6 – Isabella Duan/ 5 – Brigitte Schmittlein/ 4 – Hillary Umphery/ 3 – Micah Trautwein/ 2 – Maddie Lloyd/ 1 – Anne Ryschon

2nd 8+: C – Jennifer Vu/ 8 – Lindsey Rust/ 7 – Martha Yates/ 6 – Michele Holtkamp/ 5 – Noa Bregman/ 4 – Kelly Niethammer/ 3 – Tiffany Lee/ 2 – Lauren Howe/ 1 – Reagan Damoose

The women thus concluded the fall portion of the rowing calendar, tallying top-five finishes from top boats at regattas from opposite coasts of the nation. After a fall season of hard work, the team will temporarily leave the water for some well-deserved respite from competition. They will soon enter their winter on-land training to bounce back strong to attack for IRA champs in the spring. 

Contact Ruiping (Robin) Zhang at rzhang23@stanford.edu.