Northwestern crew wins state championship


Kelsey Carroll/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern crew head coach Colin Darnton holds up the trophies the team won at the Illinois College Rowing Invitational.

Gabriela Carroll, Sports Editor

Northwestern crew took home the Illinois state rowing championship Saturday for the first time since the Illinois Collegiate Rowing Invitational’s inception in 2012.

The team won six events on Saturday, placed second in three events and placed fourth in two others. The Wildcats swept the Men’s and Women’s Point Champions awards. 

The Illinois College Rowing Invitational was NU’s second race of the spring season. Weinberg junior Andrew Katchmar, who competes in the Men’s Novice 8+, said the race was a strong rebound after their previous regatta, the Lubbers Cup.

“(The Lubbers Cup) was my personal first race ever and the first race of the spring season for the rest of our boat,” Katchmar said. “It was disappointing that our performance was somewhat lackluster to what we had hoped for. We had some hiccups, but I think it definitely motivated all of us to not let those mistakes happen again.”

Crew team President and Communication senior Sarah Pickles said the team also dealt with some unique challenges. The regatta did not use stake boats, which allow the teams to line up all together and start from the same position. 

Instead, some of the boats started a full length behind the other boats in the race, leaving them with an uphill battle to start. 

Pickles said while their boats have placed well individually at other regattas in the past, she can’t remember a time all of their boats were collectively as successful as they were Saturday.

After the team won at the ICRI, Pickles said the team’s morale is high. Despite the tougher and larger fields at the remaining regattas this season, Pickles said the win in this race is motivating for the challenges ahead.

“It’s motivating going into it being like, this was a really good race,” Pickles said. “Let’s not lose speed. Let’s keep forging ahead, keep on improving, keep on getting faster.”

Despite competing in different events and different boats, Weinberg senior Elaine Botros, coxswain for the Men’s Varsity 8+, said there’s a lot of collaboration between the different varsity boats, as well as between the varsity and novice boats. 

“There’s so much mentorship that goes on,” Botros said. “Many people who join crew have never rowed before. There’s a lot of literal education. The seniors on the team will give the freshmen advice about either their rowing, talk about a race together, give each other tips on nutrition and how to tape up their hands for blisters.”

A lot of that collaboration comes during winter training, according to Botros. She credited their strong offseason as a big reason for their early spring success. The crew team works out six days a week, even in the winter season, Botros said, and those physical sessions help the team stay in shape to win races in the spring.

The team’s winter practices include both traditional on-land workouts, as well as indoor practices at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion using machines that specifically simulate rowing, Katchmar said. 

“(The machine) trains most of the same muscles, but you don’t have to worry about the technique nearly as much as you do in actual boats,” Katchmar said. 

For members like Katchmar who joined during or just prior to the pandemic, the spring and fall seasons this year were their first opportunity to race. 

But for seniors like Botros and Pickles, this season was an opportunity to return to their favorite sport, and Botros said her appreciation for the team and the ability to be out on the water is so much higher.

“Compared to freshman year, I appreciate being able to race so much more,” Botros said. “Spring season is my absolute favorite part of rowing. The races are shorter, they’re faster, they’re more intense. For my senior season to be going this well with our team is so great.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @gablcarroll