After twelve weeks of focusing so much time and energy on training and racing, the conclusion of the spring rowing season always seems to come so abruptly. And given the historic levels of success our men’s and women’s teams enjoyed this season, I was particularly sad to see it end. 2017-‘18 was by all accounts the most successful year in program history. After notable finishes last fall at Head of the Genesee, Head of the Charles, and Head of the Schuylkill, both the men and women got off to a quick spring start by sweeping all four varsity eight events at the John Hunter Regatta in Gainesville, Georgia, at the end of spring break. And the accomplishments piled up from there. Our student-athletes have much to be proud of; some of our season highlights include:
- the men’s and women’s teams swept in-state rivals Union and St. Lawrence for the third year in a row (the races against SLU were canceled in 2016 due to weather);
- our MV8 were a perfect 3-0 against both RIT and Ithaca, including a thrilling come-from- behind win over Ithaca (we were down six seats with 500m to go);
- our WV8 and 2V8 were likewise perfect against RIT and William Smith in three head-to-head encounters, while the 2V8 beat Ithaca on two occasions;
- Hamilton crews medaled in six (six!) events at the NY State Collegiate Championships, including gold in the W2V8 and the WN4+;
- the MV8 and 2V8 each made their respective B Finals at the National Invitational Rowing Championships;
- our WV8 won the B Final at NIRC, while the 2V8 made the A Final, finishing sixth;
- our women’s open 4+ took home a bronze medal at NIRC;
- the WV8 finished the season ranked in the top ten in Division III for the fourth consecutive year, after being ranked as high as fourth in the coaches poll for three straight weeks;
- our women’s team (V8 and 2V8) also finished the season ranked first in the NCAA’s official New York region rankings (ahead of Ithaca, who earned the Liberty League automatic bid to the NCAA Championships); the V8 also beat Wellesley head-to-head, who is going to the Championships from the NEWMAC, and both crews beat WPI and Pacific Lutheran, also going as at-large bids.
While the women came up just short of earning a bid to the NCAA Championships, they had a remarkable season by any measure, as did the men. In that vein, I thought I should provide some more context and information regarding NCAA selection. Earning a bid – particularly racing in our conference and our region – is extremely difficult. Only eight teams go to the Championships, and if they took the best eight teams in the country, I’m confident we would have received a bid, but NCAA selection isn’t about choosing the top eight teams. The way the championships is structured, the goals are regional/conference inclusion and developing the sport across the country. That’s the reason for all of the automatic qualification bids and the regional representation rule, which states that each of the four DIII regions (Mid-Atlantic, New England, New York, and Pacific) must be represented. So, here’s how it broke down….
The four conference automatic bids went to Bates (NESCAC), Ithaca (Liberty League), Washington College (MARC), and Wellesley (NEWMAC). A fifth bid went to Pacific Lutheran in order to meet the regional representation rule. The three remaining at-large bids were awarded to WPI, Wesleyan, and Williams. The selection committee weighs late-season results very heavily, and the fact that those teams finished ahead of us at NIRC hurt our case. As outlined above, however, and as I argued to the committee, we can boast very strong results against teams selected for the championships. I maintain that we’re good enough to have gone (and seeing results from today’s heats bears that out), but the process and our results at NIRC didn’t work in our favor.
So we look ahead to next year and continuing the momentum that we’ve built. How do we do that? Hard work comes to mind first, and I think our student-athletes proved that they aren’t afraid of that. Second, we have to keep holding ourselves to the high standards that we’ve worked to set over the past four years – we can’t go back to settling for mediocrity. Third, we have to keep recruiting. Novice walk-ons will continue to be critical to our depth and growth (some of our very best athletes have been and are walk-ons), but we have to bring in a handful of talented and experienced athletes every year. Finally, we have to work to raise the money necessary to give our student-athletes the absolute best experience possible during their years as Continentals. Make no mistake, we enjoy tremendous support from the College, the athletic department and Director of Athletics Jon Hind. Department funding covers most of our necessities: travel, meals, accommodations, uniforms, equipment maintenance, and of course coaches’ compensation. There is one huge need, however, where the College asks us to help ourselves: the purchase of boats and oars. Our goal is to implement a fleet maintenance program that will allow us to purchase new boats for each team every four years. That way anyone who is a member of the team for four years will enjoy having a new boat added to the fleet during his or her time at Hamilton. Perhaps as important, this will put us on par with our NESCAC peers, each of whom also fundraises for new boats on a regular basis.
This past year, we added three new boats to our fleet: an eight for the women, an eight for the men, and a four that we can use for women or lightweight men. Coach Hind fronted the money for us to buy these shells without delay with the understanding that the program would pay a portion back to the department through fundraising. I’m appealing to you as supporters of the program to help us do that with gifts in whatever amount you feel is appropriate. Not only will your support with this have the impact of helping us meet an immediate financial obligation, but it will have a lasting impact by helping us establish the foundation of our long-term fleet maintenance program. If you wish to make a gift, you can either mail a check payable to Trustees of Hamilton College to my attention at 198 College Hill Road Clinton, NY 13323, or you can donate with a credit card online – just be sure to indicate your gift is in support of the rowing program. Thank you for your consideration of this request and your continued support of our student-athletes. For any interested individuals or groups of individuals, there are naming opportunities available – please contact me directly to discuss.
September and fall racing will be upon us before we know it. We will be hosting our annual Bridge-to-Bridge Regatta, as well as traveling to Rochester, Boston, and Philadelphia for an exciting schedule of head of the river racing. We hope to see you along the way, and if not, we hope that you’ll follow us on Instagram (@hamiltoncollegerowing) and Twitter (@HamCollRowing) to keep up with the latest news.
Have a great summer, and Go, Blue!
Robert Weber, Head Coach