M. Crew looking to spring

“I’ve rowed a couple summers now, and wherever I go, nobody seems to know where Colby is, who we are, what we can do.” David Watson ’15, co-captain and one of few upperclassmen on men’s crew, takes his team’s small-town reputation as a reason to push himself and his teammates for more: “It makes me want to pull harder, to put Colby on the map.”

Watson and his team found themselves around Cambridge, Mass. on the weekend of October 17th for the world-famous annual Head of the Charles Regatta. The event is chock-full of crews who have already made it in the world of collegiate and professional rowing. “It’s awe-inspiring,” Watson said, “seeing those professionals at the same regatta.”

The fire Watson and his teammates brought to improve their team showed in their result. In the hyper-competitive race, surrounded by some of the top teams in the country and indeed the world, the Mules’ young collegiate eight squad rowed strongly and resolutely, beating out an impressive opposing team that had come all the way from China, besting their own result from last year and earning a 31st-place finish.

“The feeling coming off the water that day was something special,” remembered Clint Ross ’16. “We’ve grown tremendously as a team and as a boat.” Though a first place finish at the Charles is a goal for a season or two ahead for the Mules, the quality of the competition there only strengthens the team’s resolve to join such lofty ranks. “Seeing some of those professional guys from New Zealand and Australia row in those boats, it’s an incredible sight,” Ross said. “It inspires us to row a little faster.”

Fall season results, Watson says, serve as a good barometer for the team’s progress heading into the offseason and eventually meets in the spring. “Five out of our eight rowers are different from last year,” he notes. “And about six of them were walk-ons when they came to Colby.” That the team is so young and yet making such noticeable strides early in its collective career is promising.

Roger Stone ’17 occupies the stroke seat on the men’s collegiate eight crew. “It’s a tough position,” according to Ross. “It’s really cool to see such a young member of our team doing that.” Stone is one of the young rowers expected to continue to contribute early and often for the crew, in a team environment, according to Watson and Ross, which must be delicately balanced.

Stew Stokes, longtime coach of the Mules, works with two recent Colby Crew graduates, Andrew Wall ’12 and Noach Teachey ’13, as assistant coaches, and is fostering an increasingly competitive environment for the team. Stokes must teach and nurture the many novices the team brings in every year while quickly meshing them with the ever-competitive upperclassmen to create a cohesive whole in a short season.

Although the team is pleased with its improvements made in the fall at the Head of the Charles, the next step is working harder to improve in the offseason. “We want to find more power in the boat,” Watson said. From statistics Stokes and his assistants have gathered, the current iteration of Colby’s collegiate eight crew is the fastest in years, but they expect to gain even more speed through winter training.

There is a tradition in men’s crew that Watson hopes to find his team on the winning side of in the spring. In small meets, the teams that lose customarily give their shirts to the winning crew. “Our goal is to win some shirts in the spring,” the senior co-captain said.

The heated Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) meet will present Watson and his team a landmark opportunity to win shirts in the upcoming season, and the race is often a close one. Two years ago, the team lost by only one and a half seconds, Watson remembered. “Anything can happen.”

Another CBB loss will not be considered acceptable this time around in the spring, according to the team leaders. “We have some of the hardest workers I’ve met on campus,” Ross said. “We’re looking to make waves.”

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