MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – With a new look to this year’s Barry University rowing crew, the Buccaneers have some things to iron out. But for the most part, it’s a season where the crew has set the bar high.
“The team is different from last year, obviously,” first-year coach Boban Rankovic said. “However, we finished pretty strong in the fall season. It was a pretty good indicator that we’ll have a fun and competitive year ahead of us. As the first race comes around against FIT March 22nd, I’m really looking forward to see where we’re at.”
Barry opens the spring racing season against Florida Tech in the Governor’s Cup in Fellsmere, Fla., March 22. It is a long time to wait and train before actual competition begins to count for something. The Buccaneers spend nearly two-and-a-half months after Christmas before the season begins, getting its crew in shape and on the same page.
“The funny thing about rowing is we start from Day 1 in the fall, which is about Aug. 24, and every day up until about March 20, we’re training every single day,” sophomore Beth Desmond said. “There’s a few months in there where all we’re doing is erging, so that’s really tough, and it’s hard on our bodies. But it’s all worth it because going across the finish line first just makes everything better.”
Last year, the Bucs Varsity 8 finished first in 14 of the 16 races, and owned the No. 1 ranking through the end of the regular season until finishing runner-up to Nova Southeastern at the NCAA Championships. Needless to say, there’s a little more incentive this year.
“It was really hard losing that,” said Desmond, who sat in the 8 last year. “To this day, I still think about it every day.”
“Second’s not what we want,” sophomore coxswain Angela Dasch said. “We want gold, we want to win.”
After the season opener at the Governor’s Cup, the Bucs race against Nova Southeastern in Hollywood Fla., March 29 at 7:45 a.m. in the only local race of the year. This year, Barry will travel out West to race in the San Diego Crew Classic Apr. 5-6. The Sunshine State Conference Championships are set for Apr. 25 at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Fla.
The Bucs will compete in the prestigious Dad Vail regatta May 9-10, and hope they receive a bid to the NCAA Championships May 30-June 1 at the site of last year’s championships at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.
“Everybody is really anxious to start racing, which is really good to see,” Rankovic said.
Of course, while the crew is overly motivated to right the ship from last year’s miss at an NCAA title, Rankovic prefers to focus on walking the walk before talking the talk, while taking steps along the way.
“We try to focus on the process,” Rankovic said, “… and taking care of the little things. As for the expectations, really this year it’s row hard, basically. And have fun while going down the course, and really fighting for better placement in each race. There are a lot of returners from last year. They basically know what it takes to get back to nationals and take the next step. So it’s been a fun process, seeing them push each other and encouraging each other in that direction.”
The Bucs return All-Americans Kristina Boncheva and Monika Kaminska from the Varsity 8. Desmond and fellow sophomores Rosie Boncheva and Anais Foppoli also return. Senior Rebekah Kilroy and juniors Mandy Carper and Sam McKenzie, who missed most of last year with injuries, are also back in the fold. Barry added three international freshmen recruits in Paola Girotto, Jelena Momirov and Luna Ugrenovic, along with senior Lauren Hillard, a transfer from Syracuse, and freshman coxswain Stephanie Dinkel to the mix. Along with Ellie Hartman, Lulu Mariscal and Audie Tchie, the Buccaneers have a bigger squad with the potential for multiple boats.
Two years ago, the Bucs only had the numbers to fill one 8. Now there is enough to fill two eights or an eight and two fours, depending on the race or regatta they compete in.
“Right now at a lot of practices we have two 8s, which is really nice to have two boats side by side,” Rankovic said, “or three or four 4s, which we have not had in the past. It really creates a different environment, and definitely more exciting for everybody. It changes the dynamics of practice. I’m looking forward to keeping the numbers and increasing the numbers.
“Having more people on the team, it’s always a good thing, hands down. It gives more competition within the team, it gives more depth, per say. It’s really something that we work on every year. And I know every team in the country works on that as well. You always want more girls and more depth and more speed, and with that it brings different excitement.”
This year’s team has eight rowers from outside the United State. That’s nearly half of the team made up of international blood. Rankovic is originally from Serbia, and graduate assistant coach Yenny Kosowski rowed for eight years in Germany before competing for Oregon State. Is international experience a prerequisite at Barry these days?
“My priority is to bring the best possible candidate to the university and our program,” Rankovic said. “If that’s from the U.S. or else, it really doesn’t (matter). I don’t favor it, let’s put it that way. It’s the best candidate that comes here.
“We are working hard every day, twice a day, in the classroom and on the water.”