SANTA CLARA, Calif. – With the final race of the Fall in the books, Santa Clara women's rowing now looks forward to the long winter of training in preparation for Spring. After having very little experience in 2012, the Broncos brought back almost the entire roster and head coach John Wojtkiewicz is looking for improvements this year.
Santa Clara took part in the Head of the Lagoon in Foster City on November 11 for its last race of the Fall. Despite not being built for regattas like the Head of the Lagoon, it provided valuable experience for the team.
"A regatta like this is not really our forte," said Wojtkiewicz. "We don't have a lot of distance on our home water (Lexington Reservoir) so it precludes really knowing ahead of time how fast we can go over a 5K distance. We just kind of go out there and do it. I liked that we were able to get a bunch of boats out there and race, particularly for the novices, without incident. It shows at least the athletes are able to handle themselves in a new environment and just go for it and have a good time. It was helpful to see where we stand against rivals like St. Mary's; no real surprises on their top end speed but also not discouraging knowing we have two strong varsity athletes injured and still another four abroad this quarter. I thought the pair results were very interesting even though we didn't have a boat in that race, the top end pacing was basically the same as what we've done in our own pairs in practice."
The success of the Fall season wasn't measured by results in the races, instead the team looked at how they improved as time went on and where they are compared to the same time last year.
"I'm measuring it by how much work we're getting done on the water in practice, which is significant compared to last year," said Wojtkiewicz. "I know we're still a ways off from showing any real boat speed, and the athletes are aware of it as well, but we're also in it for the long haul, and they can see the improvements. Our last testing session everyone improved by an average of six seconds from last month, and we're eight seconds ahead of where we were at this time last year. In addition, this is the strongest group of novices we've had since I've been here. We also continue to pile plates on the bar in the weight room. In fact I'd like to trade some of our strength gains for fitness gains since on paper we're a little unbalanced. Fingers crossed it will pay off with shorter distances and heavier gearing."
With two senior captains on the team, Wojtkiewicz has seen them begin to show the younger rowers how to go about being successful in a collegiate sport. Even though the leadership is there, it is still too early know how big a role the novices will play on the water.
"It's great from a team culture standpoint that we have returning rowers that can show leadership and be available as a resource to the new athletes in "how to do it" in everything from how to wake up on time in the morning to best practices on studying in the van back to campus," said Wojtkiewicz. "Our two senior captains, Adrienne Lohe '13 and Missy Giorgi '13 have stepped up in this area and are providing good leadership. I think we'll be more ready than we were last year from a maturity standpoint, but the recovery of our injured athletes as well as the condition of those returning from abroad will also influence our speed. Novices will definitely play a role, but unsure yet how much."
One of the biggest keys for success and improvement early in the year is how much time the team put into workouts on their own over the summer.
"We did a very good job with our summer training," said Wojtkiewicz. "All the summer we had an email group to publish training logs and it was impressive to see the volume that was being submitted on a weekly basis. Some weeks it wasn't unusual to see 80-100K in distance from certain athletes. That sets a great precedent for next summer."
With the winter coming, there is one thing on the horizon for the Broncos.
'Training, training and more training. ," said Wojtkiewicz. "We'll be shifting away from distance to shorter, higher intensity intervals. It's a tricky business balancing the maintenance of an aerobic base while improving lactic acid tolerance, VO2 max and power output when you only have 20 hours of training a week. We're also going to focus a little more on intra-squad competition and engage in a formalized selection process that hopefully will fuel our competitive fires a bit more. Racing starts in March, and I think it will be good."