Varsity Rowing Shoves Off On Saturday

October 16, 2008
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Oct. 16, 2008

On August 1 of last year Heather Weisel was handed the reins to Old Dominion University's upstart women's varsity rowing program.  She's spent the last 14 months putting together what are the essential pieces of establishing a national caliber rowing program, and now the Lady Monarchs are just two days away from taking their first step towards that goal.  This Saturday ODU will take to the water for the first time at the prestigious Head of the Charles in Boston.


"It's been a long wait with a lot of anticipation," says Weisel who was also the head coach for the ODU club team from 1988 to 1994.  "Now it's all come to fruition and everyone is excited.  It's amazing to have the Head of the Charles be our first race because most of these girls have never experienced anything like it.  There's no race like it in the world."


The world's largest two-day rowing event, the Head of the Charles attracts more than 300,000 spectators and 7,500 athletes from around the world competing in 52 different race events.  The Lady Monarchs will compete in the Women's Club Four with the team of Kady Stapp (Coxswain), Alicia Smith (Stroke), Ashley Olmstead (2), Marie Gately (3) and Meredith McPherson (Bow).  Determining which four ladies would have the distinction of rowing in ODU's first varsity event was a tough one for Weisel.  As a staff the Lady Monarch coaches looked at several factors. 

"When we chose these four rowers we examined a number of different factors," added Weisel.  "These ladies not only had some of the top scores on our erg (rowing machine) tests, but they also proved to be very coachable and able to make changes to their stroke as we went along.  As we get deeper into the season boat chemistry will also play a large part in determining our lineup.  Each one of our young ladies possesses a different talent and we have to determine which groups move the boat well together."

After signing 14 scholarship rowers and adding 15 walk-ons in September, it became pretty evident that the Lady Monarchs had a lot of raw talent, but needed to work fast to turn that into promise.  They did just that, rowing between 20 and 27 kilometers a day during fall training, in addition to the countless hours they put in on the rowing machines and in the weight room.  The culmination of the preseason schedule pays off Saturday at Noon when the Women's Club Four shoves off.

The Head of the Charles presents a very challenging course with several turns and what can be an overwhelming environment for inexperienced rowers.  With that being said, Weisel and her staff have several benchmarks with which to measure Saturday's performance.

"Our primary goal would be to finish in the top half of the 39-team field because that would help us gain entry into next year's Head of the Charles.  If we can finish in the top 10 it would have been an incredible race considering this group has only been together for five days and it's our coxswain's first time on this course.  We talked about keeping our head in our own boat and not getting distracted by the 300,000 spectators who line the course.  If we can do that, I think we have a chance."