June 12, 2010
HENLEY, England - Members of the Villanova rowing team are overseas in England to compete in the famed Henley Regatta. During the trip, Brianna Ipjian will be keeping a daily blog of the team's activities.
Note: The most recent day's blog will always be posted first, followed by the previous days entries.
Sunday June 20, 2010
Typically, I don't tend to get nervous before a race, but today was different. My stomach was jittery during the walk down to the race course. Before heading out onto the water, my four, consisting of Kellie Kruppenbacher, Kelly Binder, Jill Pietropaolo, and Katie Grasing, huddled up and promised each other to row the races of our lives. As we approached the start line, we saw many of our teammates spotted along the shores and even in the umpire boat that trails the race. The start of the race was the best we have ever had. We had the lead for more than half of the race as the girls literally gave it everything they had. The boat from the famed Thames Rowing Club inched past our boat with around 600 meters to go and my boat pushed back and forth giving the opposing crew a big fight. We lost by 1 and ¼ length or about 4 seconds. After we docked, we later learned that the crew we were racing has been rowing together for more than two years and are going to the time trials for the Great Britain team. With racing over, the team watched our friends from Drexel University win the elite eight race and then headed to the Flower Pot for dinner. The night was then ours to enjoy.
Saturday June 19, 2010
Racing began early for the pair (Michele Woolbert and Kate Traynor). Rowing under an elite category, the two faced stiff competition from the favored crew from Cardiff University. The elite category can consist of crews attempting to become or already on national teams. The announcer stated that the two from Cardiff were already on the U23 Great Britain team. The straight four rowed a great race and proved strong in the quarter final race losing to Molesey Boat Club. The last boat to race for the day was the eight. Coxed by Kira Parks, the crew did quite well. Most of the boat consisted of freshmen and sophomores but they rowed extremely well and gave it a great effort. After racing ended, the team headed to the Anchor Inn for dinner before retiring early in preparation for the final day of racing.
Friday, June 18
As time trials started for the unseeded events, practice was earlier than usual. Nonetheless, we were sharp and concentrated during one of our last rows before the races began. The team will rest for the remainder of the day and enjoy a reception this evening held at the Rowing Museum for all athletes participating in the regatta.
And don't you worry.the team is definitely keeping up to date on all important events in the States, mainly the NBA finals. (Way to go Lakers!! Sorry Celtics fans.) Also, don't forget to watch the USA soccer team as the face Slovenia in our second match of the World Cup. Lastly, you can check for live results from the regatta at http://www.hwr.org.uk/. GO CATS!
Thursday, June 17
With race day only 48 hours away, practice was intense and focused. All boats had strong practices in the morning, which we only hope continues for our races. After a break for rest and lunch, the team returned for yet again another similar practice. The girls are anxious and excited about the upcoming races. To help us unwind, Coach Jack prepared a barbeque in the garden (the British word for backyard). The evening was full of laughs, good food (especially our team favorite chocolate cake), and games. It was a great evening for the girls to get their minds off of rowing and have some fun.
Wednesday, June 16
After an early morning practice which consisted of pieces against Grand Valley University from Michigan, the team hopped on a train headed towards Windsor Castle. Although the train ride was lengthy, Emily Strange provided ample amounts of entertainment (just like always) with her original melodies and outrageous stories. The castle was unlike anything most of us have ever seen. As we approached on the train and caught sight of the castle, we were in awe at its sheer size and magnificence. With a guided tour, we learned about the many different royals who took the throne as well as some of the important events that have helped shape England's history. At one particular stop on the tour, we actually witnessed the Queen and royal family leaving the castle to attend the Royal Ascott (horse races). She even waved to us as her motorcade was pulling away. We spent a majority of the day at the castle which was a great experience.
Tuesday, June 15
With the boats at the Upper Thames Rowing Club, the team walked from our homestays to practice. The temperature at 7AM actually is a lot colder than we all expected. With winds howling, the water on the course served up quite the challenge to the crews as chop glided over our rigors and oars. Our first practice on the course allowed the coxswains and bow-seats the opportunity to gain a perspective on the meter marks and steer down the course, which is actually very different from any other course. Similar to the Reading Regatta, this course is only 1500 for women and it is lined with logs on either side only allowing for two crews to safely race down the course. Steering down this course is a little nerve-racking at first, but after a few loops it became easier. I have to give credit to Carrie Bennett and Michele Woolbert who steer the straight-four and pair. Navigating down the course is a feat itself; doing it while rowing at the same time seems nearly impossible to me. After a four-hour break to eat, relax, and explore the town, we headed back to the course for a short but hard work-out before heading to a restaurant for some traditional English food.
Monday, June 14
In order to have our boats ready at Henley, we had to row the Thames from Reading. Typically this long row wouldn't have been that big of a deal but we faced four slight obstacles: locks. This was quite the experience as we had to place our four boats into one narrow channel. Honestly, I was a little stressed and nervous about how our boats, which with the oars are wider than the locks, were going to fit safely. Luckily, my crew especially my bow-pair, Katie Grasing and Jill Pietropaolo, who I row with all the time, became experts at paddling through the channel with only the very tip of their oars. I hardly noticed that the water was escaping the channel the first time until the gate opened up leading to more of the gorgeous English countryside. Despite the distance and time spent on the water, the sights and memories made this row worth the while. Rowing through the English countryside, we saw stunning cottages and chateaus as well as some of the greenest trees and fields I have ever seen. Sharing the water with large vessels and river boats at first seemed intimidating, but the English captains always greeted us with a wave and a smile. Finally, we reached Henley and rowed down the course, docking our boats at the Upper Henley Rowing Club before walking back to our homes.
With the rest of the evening used for free time, the team divided into two with half heading into Oxford to visit Molly Berg's brother who is studying there and the rest trekked into London. After finally figuring out the London train system and the Tube, my group arrived in Piccadilly Circus. Similar to New York's Time Square, the Circus (a word used for circle) shined with neon lights and bright movie signs as we quickly discovered this was the area of major movie premiers and the largest night-life in London. The size of the city was astonishing. Faceted with rich architecture and rich history, London quickly turned into one of my favorite cities. From Trafalgar Square, we could see the London Eye, Buckingham palace, and Westminster. One area in particular, Covent Garden, featured quaint outdoor restaurants and many spots for live entertainment including what we know as Broadway plays. After a long day of walking the city, we returned back on train joining up with the other half of our team.
Sunday June 13
The World Cup Match was quite an experience. From the loud singing of the Star Spangled Banner to rowdy chants of USA, it's safe to say that we all received a few glares during the close 1-1 draw with England. The intensity of the restaurants during the game was unreal as both teams played a hard game providing ample opportunities for jeering from both countries' loyal fans. Luckily for Villanova, these cheers would continue into the next day.
The coxed four advanced through two races in order to advance to the grand finals, joining all other Villanova boats. After a nail-biting first half of the race, the coxed four was able to pull ahead of South Hampton University of England and win by about a length. The pair, straight-four, and eight put up strong fights as they all came in second by close margins. All in all it was an extremely successful day of racing!
Saturday June 12
Cheerio from England! We arrived at Heathrow airport at 9PM Thursday evening after a near seven hour flight full of sleep, movies, music, and of course many laughs. Much to our surprise, the sun was still managing to peak out between the clouds as we walked out to our coach bus. After about an hour bus-drive that only included about four wrong turns, we arrived at our first of two homestays. Our first host family welcomed most of the team leaving only 4 seniors, and 2 other members to the other host family a short distance away. A little after midnight, both houses were nestled in and although late at night, not nearly ready for sleep with the 5 hour time difference.
The next morning we all awoke around 10AM and took multiple trips in our rented 10 passenger van. On this first ride, Laura Collins experienced quite a culture shock. Coach Kelly sat in the front passenger seat of the van and turned around to answer a question about the upcoming regatta. Suddenly, Laura screamed, "What are you doing?" Erupting into laughter, I quickly corrected her and calmed her panic by ensuring her that Matt was actually not driving the van and that the steering wheel is on the opposite side and that you drive on the opposite side of the road in England. After a quick rig and row, the team showered and headed into town for dinner and an evening of exploring the beautiful town of Henley before an early night in preparation for the Reading Regatta.
At the regatta the team fared quite well for its first race on the windy 1500 meter dual races. The structure of the racing is quite different from in the States. Typically, sprint races in the States are a straight 2000 meter race with six crews racing at once. In England, you race until you lose a race. The coxed four won their first race and two hours later lost in a tight battle with a crew from Oxford City. The eight, straight four, and double faced stiff competition in their first races. Luckily, all crews have another opportunity tomorrow for success.
After the regatta, we came back to our homes and showered quickly. In a few hours the United States plays England in the first round of the World Cup. All of England is sure to be out in full-fledged support of their beloved "footballers". In fact, all the stores, businesses, cars, and people are already donning their English flags in preparation for the match. All we can say is GO VILLAOVA and GO USA!!!!!!