Nov. 11, 2003
It is the beginning of a new era for Clemson rowing according to head coach Susie Lueck. In the first five years of the program significant, gains were made in establishing a successful program that has been ranked nationally, received ACC Crew of the Year honors, and whose coaches have been nationally recognized. Now in its sixth season the program that has created a national reputation for itself has expanded its focus.
The 2003-04 rowing team welcomes the largest and best recruiting class since the team’s inception in 1998. Additionally, Clemson rowing looks forward to the plans of a new facility whose construction will begin in the fall of 2004. And like the rest of the ACC, Tiger rowing is excited about the expanded ACC and the growth of ACC rowing with Boston College and Miami contributing rowing teams to the conference.
Returning seven of the Varsity 8+ rowers, including Mary Nell Green, Jen Wortman, Robin Mescher, Ashlee Brown, Alden Burley, Diane Ulrey, and Lizzie Noll, gives Tiger rowing the talent and experience it needs to continue in quest to become nationally competitive. These girls entered together three years ago as novice and have developed well as a team.
“Leadership-wise the junior class is awesome,” said Lueck. “It has been exciting to see them progress. They by far have the strongest leadership skills we have seen as a class.” Noll is the only senior in the group so they will have another year together after this season.
With the loss of two-time Varsity 8+ coxswain Emily Kuivila, the former 2V8+ coxswain, junior Sarah Canterbury, and Varsity 4+ coxswain, sophomore Liz Yost, have risen to the occasion. “Our coxswains Sarah Canterbury and Liz Yost have done an excellent job stepping up and filling the hole Emily Kuivila left behind,” said Lueck.
The coxswain position for the Varsity 8+ in the spring is still up for grabs as both girls demonstrate strong skills for the job. Yost, the less experienced of the two, has progressed quickly so far this year with a steep learning curve. Canterbury, the returning 2V8+ coxswain from last year, filled the 1V8+ seat at the beginning of the fall season.
Recruiting has become an increased priority for Tiger rowing as it is fundamental to the foundation of a competitive program. This year’s recruits are like none other Clemson rowing has had before and have already been contributors on the team. In a landmark win for the Tigers, the Novice 8+ defeated Virginia’s Novice 8+ in the program’s first win over a Virginia 8+. “Beating Virginia says a lot for the program as to where we are headed. In the novices’ minds they know they can beat Virginia,” said Lueck.
Four recruited freshmen, through seat racing and trials at practice, earned seats in the Varsity 4+ that traveled to Boston for the Head of the Charles. They competed against returning rowers to win out those seats.
“For a student-athlete to come in their freshmen year and two months into the school year be in the top 12 on the team is a huge contribution to the program and they still have three years left,” said Lueck. Additionally, the recruits have been motivators to the varsity as the freshmen are competing for their seats. They have also been great leaders to the walk-ons, helping to bring them up to speed quickly.
New additions have also been made to the coaching staff. Former Clemson rowers Farrell Finstad and Emily Kuivila have filled the roles of Second Assistant Coach and Director of Operations respectively. “It’s been awesome because they came in working at full speed,” said Lueck of the new coaching staff. “They knew where the program was, they understood Clemson’s athletic department and Clemson’s community. One Clemson and Solid Orange rings true to them and their loyalty to Clemson is really deep. It is an incredible staff. Their work ethic and loyalty of the staff has been unmatched.”
As the team prepares for the spring season the training focus has been aerobic conditioning, improving rowing technique, and trying to become thinking rowers. A thinking rower is one who learns and understands the technique enough that they can make improvements themselves. The focus has been on feeling the boat, working together in smaller boats such as fours and pairs so that they can become better technicians.
“The difference between rowing and other sports is that on race day when they leave the dock 45 minutes before the race I never see them until they are finished competing,” explained Lueck. “So they truly have to know what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong, and how to make that change mid-swing.
All of this training has been effective this fall. The Head of the Mon proved to be a milestone for Clemson; beating Virginia demonstrates the beginning of changing tides and trends. The win over Duke was confidence-building to the Varsity as defeating ACC rivals in always important.
At the Head of the Charles the freshmen racing in the Varsity 4+ rowed strongly, finishing very close to the teams right in front of them. For the Varsity 8+ the regatta proved to be a major learning opportunity and a productive weekend. The Head of the Charles serves as a motivator for the team because so few athletes get to go.
The Tigers now look forward to the Head of Hooch which will end the nontraditional fall season. They will face competition from nationally competitive teams such as Duke and Texas as well as future ACC opponent Miami. “The fall season has gone by fast and has been incredibly productive,” said Lueck.
Clemson rowing is looking forward to the spring season when it will be hosting North Carolina, Miami, and the ACC Championships. The Tigers will return to the San Diego Crew Classic again this year where they have a chance to race the west coast teams that rarely travel east. The Lexus South/Central Regional championships will be vital as the bid to the NCAA championships rides on the results of this regatta.
The Tigers also have the construction of an additional facility to anticipate. The new building, which will include work out space, locker rooms, and a training room, is scheduled for construction to begin in the fall of 2004.
“The facility that the athletic department has committed to build will provide much needed space for the team. The new locker room size and facilities will allow the team of seventy student-athletes to have a quicker transition from practice to class. Having a dedicated workout space to erg and stretch will facilitate multiple groups working out at the same time,” said Lueck.
The Tigers return to the water ready to show their commitment to training and each other. The team has reached a turning point; there is no longer a Clemson student-athlete who has been in Tiger Town without rowing, and no recruit who has been in high school without Clemson rowing in existence. The experience of the team and impact of solid recruits has Lueck and the rest of the rowing staff excited about the possibilities for this season and the future of rowing at Clemson.
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