The Wesleyan Argus | Crew of men hungry for more after phenomenal fall season
The men’s team finished their fall season towards the end of October. They were happy with their improvement and look forward to the progress they will make during winter training and show in their spring season. With a severely underclass team, the Cardinals put in great performances in their three regattas.
While this is their shorter season and spring is their bigger focus, the Cardinals have been working hard from the moment they arrived on campus. Captain Joe Kagan ’23 described the team’s approach as cohesive and energetic.
“Our season started in early October,” Kagan said. “Our fall season is a shortened season because there aren’t that many races; Spring is our big season. We start training as soon as school starts. Our coach… went full throttle, stepped on the gas [with practice]. Ahead of our first few races, [there’s] definitely more intensity.”
Her first regatta was the Riverfront Regatta on Sunday October 2nd. In the men’s Open 8, the Red-Blacks’ first boat finished second overall in a field of 18 boats. Competing against competitive NESCAC teams like Tufts and Trinity, Wesleyan finished in 11:37.81, just behind the Jumbos who finished in 11:23.72 and just ahead of Trinity , who placed third with a time of 11:42.93. The first boat carrying Asher Israel ’26 (helmsman), Pierce Buckner-Wolfson ’26, Oliver Diamond ’23, Emmett Nunes ’23, Kagan, Nelson Bellows ’26, Paul Kiyonaga ’25 and Hugo Harington ’25 made it secure a second place followed by the Cardinals’ second boat in eighth and their third in 13th overall.
The NESCAC is an incredibly competitive league when it comes to squad, and the fall season is challenging with longer races with staggered starts called head races, but that only makes the Cardinals more excited to compete.
“Anytime we have to compete against the competition that we’re going to see in the spring, especially NESCAC schools, we’re always super hungry,” Kagan said. “This environment creates a spring-like environment. But one of the difficult things about fall races is that they’re all head races. So you just don’t have the same competitive atmosphere as competing alongside every crew.”
Two weeks later, on October 23, the Cardinals traveled to Cambridge for the legendary Head of the Charles Regatta. The collegiate eight finished 13th in a field of 40 boats. 26, Oliver Saffery ’23, Freddie Bell ’25 and Max Ewing ’24 finished eighth out of 50 boats. Looking only at collegiate teams, Wesleyan finished third overall.
These phenomenal performances are due to how carefully the team hones its strategy, carefully ensuring that the members of each boat can operate as a unit. Kagan noted that the team learned to approach the longer races in the fall with more confidence.
“We were a bit skeptical about how aggressive we could be at some autumn races. I think we rate a head race more conservatively than a spring race,” Kagan said. “Ultimately, I think it was one factor that contributed to the performance improving from one week to the next. We had Head of the Charles and then Head of the Fish and we improved a lot compared to some of our competitors. In all aspects of rowing, you can take a big bite and do your best to hold on or swallow what may seem like too much at first, especially in spring races when it’s much shorter [ends] It’s super valuable for truly improved performance.
Diamond added that the team’s work in building cohesion has been instrumental in the progress they’ve made over the course of the fall season.
“[A] What we can take away from the season is confidence in our fitness,” said Diamond. “We’re a young team and sometimes with people coming from a lot of different programs it takes time… for that to come together. There are some intangibles that can come together [after] one day a realization, or you change something a little and suddenly it feels very different. Sometimes this happens a month before a race, sometimes it happens the day before, sometimes it happens during the warm-up right before. Our ability to progress over a season has been great.”
At Head of the Fish, their final regatta of the fall season, held October 29, the Cardinals’ varsity eight boat finished eighth in a field of 17 boats. After finishing just short of Tufts in her previous two regattas, the boat (Israel, Kagan, Chris Saade ’25, Diamond, Nunes, Bellows, Kiyonaga, Harington and Buckner-Wolfson) finally overtook her NESCAC rivals her season with a time of 10:17.72. In the second varsity eight event, Red and Black’s second boat (Rosenblum, Ewing, Bell, Saffery, Teddy Manning ’25, Kiran Kling ’23, Beaman, Jack Cornog ’26 and Andrew Steinert ’25) finished second. up, defeating Tufts and Williams with a time of 10:36.77.
Closing the season with a win against the Jumbos was a huge success for the red-blacks. Diamond was thrilled with the progress the team had made over the course of the season and how different the season looked compared to previous years that have been overshadowed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“A big part of the crew is being right next to someone and racing and engaging with them and your training,” Diamond said. “To be back as a big group [after COVID-19] is big for us. Coming back this year we wanted to come out and make a statement. In our first race, we lost to Tufts, who was the second largest D3 team in the country last year, by about 14 seconds. Then we had HOCR, which is sort of our main race of the season that we’re concentrating on, and we lost 14 seconds again to the same Tufts team. We rode her a third time at Head of the Fish and beat her by two seconds. It shows that we have invested a lot of work this autumn and also in the summer.”
This hard work will catapult her into the spring season when there are more opportunities to compete and a focus on shorter “sprint” competitions. Diamond is excited for the upcoming winter training that will take place, allowing them to hone their mental game as well as their physical skills.
“My favorite part of the year is our winter training,” said Diamond. We will do many competitive pieces on the rowing machine. A lot of fitness is gained there and our speed for spring is found. I love that this is a fun environment that people look forward to and get excited about. There’s a whole world of mental techniques and ways you can approach this type of training. There’s a whole meta-strategy to the mental rowing game, and I really enjoy digging into it and teaching guys about it. I hope that stays and the enthusiasm stays.”
The crew will return to the water in April to compete against the Coast Guard. In the meantime, they will continue to appreciate the opportunity to compete with other teams and encourage the team’s positive competitive spirit.
“Hopefully we can show that you can change things really quickly, especially when you have a group of people who really care about and love the same things,” Kagan said.
Cameron Bonnevie can be reached at [email protected].
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