MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- For three straight years, the Buccaneers rowing program has made its mark with trips to the NCAA Championships. Barry would like to take it a step further this year and beyond.
“We feel strongly about this year, and we feel strongly about the future,” sixth-year head coach Dave Sanderson said. “We’re developing people to race well this season, but our group is relatively young, so we’re thinking about long-term development.”
Developing a strong program on the water is Barry rowing’s mission. With two skilled assistant coaches in Boban Rankovic and Nick Goode, the Buccaneers are breeding excellence in the boat. Last season, the 8 received its third straight at-large trip to the NCAA Division II regatta. This year, the goal is to take both an 8 and 4.
“I’ve been really happy with and proud of the team for our 8s racing at nationals over the years,” Sanderson said. “But one of our major goals is to get the whole team there. With this depth of the team, that goal seems reasonable, and it’s something we’re aiming for. We’d like the opportunity to compete for a team championship at the NCAAs.
“I’m really excited about the depth of our team. To be able to go out and row two 8s or four 4s is phenomenal. It’s going to create a lot more racing opportunities for a lot more athletes on the team. The more you race, the better you get. It’s created some spectacular competition from a training standpoint, and it is fun to watch the development. The depth on the team has really created some inter-squad competition. That is how it’s supposed to function. They’ve really accepted the challenge of the competition.”
Seniors Kelly Harrison, Helene Pierre, an All-Sunshine State Conference selection, and coxswain Gracie Horwitz are back for their final season in the boat. Junior Kristina Boncheva, who owns the team’s best erg time, also returns after being selected to the All-SSC team last year.
Sophomores Kasia Walentynowicz, Mandy Carper and Sam McKenzie also return to the Bucs’ lineup after gaining National Championship experience last year. Newcomers Emma Howard, Anna Boada and Beth Desmond brought considerable strength to the crew in the fall. Now they are joined by newcomers Rosita Boncheva, Anais Foppoli and Monika Kaminska on a squad that carries 20 rowers.
“We’re excited about the new athletes,” Sanderson said. “So far, they’ve matched with the strengths of the team. They are good athletes and great people. I think the new athletes have added additional strengths and experience to the team. As they mix in with the older members of the group, we’re kind of gelling into a well-rounded team that draws on everybody’s experiences.”
The Buccaneers open the season Saturday in a dual race against Florida Tech at Canal 54 in Fellsmere, Fla. Barry hosts Nova Southeastern at Shane Rowing Center’s intra-coastal water way in Miami Beach on March 30.
“The Nova-Barry dual race is always challenging,” Sanderson said. “All the athletes look forward to that one.”
On April 5-6, the Bucs will race in the Florida Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships in Sarasota – also home to the SSC Championships course regatta the Bucs host April 26. The Sarasota course is a buoyed 2,000-meter course, which is a major upgrade to past SSC Championship courses. Barry races in the prestigious Knecht Cup April 13-14 in Camden, N.J. and the Dad Vail Regatta May 10-11. The NCAA Championships will be held May 31-June 2 in Indianapolis, pending qualification.
Barry is coming off an impressive fall season in which the Bucs were the top Division II team at the Head of the Hooch in Chattanooga, Tenn. Now the goal is to springboard the strong fall into spring success.
“Yeah, we had a great fall, but that alone doesn’t automatically translate to a good spring,” Sanderson said. “I think we’re in a good position, but we still have to work hard daily. We’re putting in the training hours now in order to be prepared to race at a spring season championship level.”
“We focus on what we can accomplish. We understand that we can’t change what we did yesterday. We ask, ‘How can we be a little better today?’”