Everything they’ve been doing now is in preparation for what these women hope to be beaming about later.
Barry University’s rowing team ushers in a new season March 16-17 at the Duals 54 No. 1 race at Fellsmere, Fla. It is the start of a three-month journey the Buccaneers hope will lead them to qualifying for the NCAA Division II National Championships in late May.
“I know it’s very cliché, but we truly do talk about one race at a time,” Barry fifth-year coach Dave Sanderson said. “It does us absolutely no good to talk about Dad Vails now.”
Dad Vails Regatta will be held in Philadelphia in May, but the Buccaneers are concerned with their first race of 2012, which includes six firm dates on the schedule. Barry senior Courtney Greene and senior Renee Forcier are veterans on a team that finished second in the Eight Petite Final at last season’s NCAA Championships. The Buccaneers finished third with 12 points at the SSC Championships. Barry was second at last year’s SSC Championships in the Varsity 4 Final in 8:43.1. The Bucs were third in the Varsity 8 Final in 7:48.6 at Fellsmere.
“Those girls that were in the 8 last year want more,” Sanderson said. “It remains to be seen if they can accomplish it, but they’re doing all the right things now.
“Our seniors are motivated like seniors usually are because they know it’s their last time to do this. Courtney and Renee are super motivated. They’ve always been motivated, but I see a little extra fire there.”
Newcomers Kristina Boncheva and Katarzyna Walentynowicz bring tons of international experience and a presence to this year’s team. Returners Jennifer Feriozzi, Kelly Harrison, Haley Stark, Rebekah Kilroy, Helene Pierre and coxswains Grace Horowitz and Savanna Luberto are accustomed to the demands of a sport that beckons for so much commitment.
“We’ve got a nice mix of athletes on the team. Some have had two years of really good racing experience here at Barry, where they’ve had national championship experience. Some had good experiences on their own, and some novices are starting to get a real feel for it,” Sanderson said. “The ones that are here are the ones that are tough enough, and stuck it out. The ones that are here are putting their best foot forward.”
Mandy Carper, Victoria Crooks, Samantha McKenzie and Ashante Richard are all quickly adapting to the rigors of rowing. That only bodes well for the squad the road as the Buccaneers put together their 8s and 4s from what could be a changing crew at select regattas.
“I think a lot of times a novice rower just shows up and does what they’re asked without making any connection to how it will affect their racing,” Sanderson said. “Those kids just started rowing, and they’ve made the connection. Now they want to do the things they need to do to become successful later. I think these kids are competitive.
“I’m excited for them. They just keep getting better. Rowing is a sport where you have to do the work ahead of time. You can’t just wait and see what happens in rowing.”
That begs the question: what does this season have in store for the Buccaneers?
“I’m always optimistic,” Sanderson said. “Any group that is determined, that perseveres enough, that puts in the work and dedication … can have a successful season. There is definitely potential for boat speed.”
Trimming times is the name of the game in a sport where four to eight rowers and a coxswain who manages the boat and race essentials are constantly seeking speed on the water. That isn’t easy when a team is two-thirds of the way into the season and all of a sudden discovers it’s time to make up ground.
“We’ve got to continue what we started here,” Sanderson said. “We’ve got to make certain we’re attacking every day of practice, staying focused on what our goals are, and not letting up so that we can achieve those goals.”
If they do, if this new blood of Buccaneer rowing talent combines forces with the veterans who’ve seen it and been there before, there could be an awful lot of glistening on the waters around Miami Shores come late May.
Rays glistening in shades of Buccaneer Red.