Holy Cross Women's Rowing Team Travels To England

June 24, 2008

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The College of the Holy Cross women's rowing team just returned from a trip to England, where they took part in the 2008 women's Henley Regatta. The Crusaders departed for Europe on Monday, June 16, took part in the Henley Regatta on Friday and Saturday, June 20 and 21, then returned home on Tuesday, June 24. Throughout the trip, members of the team provided updates to GoHolyCross.com.

Here is their story, told by the student-athletes:

Friday, June 13
From Clare Bracikowski

The anticipation is rising. We have three more days of training on Lake Quinsigamond until we depart for a week of racing in Henley, England, at the Henley Women's Regatta. The team has been training and preparing to head across the pond to race. It has been grueling so far, but during these final couple of days of rowing, things have really come together. We have been immersed in rowing, practicing twice a day most days, and continuing with our weekly lifts as well.

This morning we arrived at the lake early to find a welcome cool morning after days of unbearable heat. The water was like glass, and we had a very constructive practice, always working on gaining speed and perfecting our technique. After practice, the team was very excited since Kimball Dining Hall had reopened because of Summer Gateways Orientation. It is so nice to be able to come back from a great practice and enjoy a big breakfast with the team.

We will be back on the water this afternoon, for our second practice of the day, working to get better every time we touch the water. I am excited for tonight because one of the families of one of my teammates is coming to Holy Cross to cook dinner for the team. I always love a home cooked meal, and team dinners are always great.

We will be taking one eight and two fours to Henley, so we have a nice sized group of rowers traveling and I think the time together since the end of classes has really pushed us to become a very cohesive unit. I know everyone is very excited to be heading to England this coming Monday. A week from today, racing will begin, with the fours competing in a time trial, and the eight beginning their racing on Saturday. I can't wait!!

Sunday, June 15
From Erika Furtado

Something about this morning was different when I woke up. Perhaps it was the fact that my alarm went off at 8:30 a.m., the time that we have been finishing practice for the last week? Or maybe it was the fact that it was about 20 degrees cooler outside? Whatever this difference was, it was apparent in my teammates as well.

A general excitement flooded our team, an excitement that usually is not as apparent in the early morning, as everyone has our long-awaited trip in the front of her mind. It's finally time! We leave for England tomorrow! I never thought I would finally say those words. But, not before one final practice in the States.

The pristine water, the cool air, and the enthusiasm of our approaching trip transferred into a great practice! In our last 1,500 meter piece, our focus and hard work was apparent in each stroke. Our dedication and determination to row well has really transferred into each row and every practice over the last week. After practice, the seniors, including myself, were a little sentimental about our last row on Lake Quinsigamond and reminiscing about how good our four years have been. But, I think we all agree that we are ready to go and race!

Tuesday, June 17
From Kelly St. Germain

Hello from England!

This morning we arrived in London's Heathrow Airport and, after gathering all the troops, headed off to the town of Henley. Once settled in the home that we're spending the next week in, we set off for the course. While admiring the sights, we walked along the race course and began to rig our boats. We went out for a quick paddle, going down to the starting line and following the course to the finish line. Once we got back to the house it was time for a team nap to help reduce the effects of the jetlag. We ate dinner at a family style Italian restaurant and were allowed to do some minor sight-seeing. We are all now back at the house and heading to bed, looking forward to a productive day of practices tomorrow. Now that we're finally in England, you can really feel the excitement between the girls. Everyone is ready to start racing!

Wednesday, June 18
From Jackie Jankowski

It's our second day here and the Dutch have invaded our house. We may be racing them later in the week...

We had double sessions of practice today and things are going well. Despite the heavy current and intense head wind we are easily getting accustomed to the course and conditions. We are moving well and all of the girls cannot wait until Friday arrives so we can actually start racing.

The team thinks that England is great. Henley is a great little town with a plethora of little shops and restaurants. We've had a chance to do some exploring and enjoy the local food and we've loved it all. Tomorrow in between practices (depending on the weather) Pat Diggins and Lindsay Piotti are taking us to do some sightseeing. We may go to Windsor Castle or a near-by town. Right now though we are going to make some tea!

Thursday, June 19
From Caitlin Rushworth

We woke up early this morning and the weather was beautiful. It was much warmer than we all expected, and it was still a little windy, but rowing on the Thames is a great way to start the day! The course was a little more crowded and chaotic than it has been the past couple of days, which is due to the fact that racing officially begins tomorrow!

This afternoon the team went on an adventure to Windsor Castle, and I use the word adventure because we are driving on the left side of the road in our rented fifteen passenger minivans. We missed the first exit to Windsor Castle, but it was okay because we wouldn't have been able to fit in the `short stay' parking lot anyways (our vans were too tall to make the clearance). The team parked on the side of a street less than a 10 minute walk from the castle.

One of our teammates gave us a brief history of the castle - it is the largest inhabited castle in the world and a large part of it burnt down in 1992, which then took millions to rebuild. A few of us grabbed the free audio tours and on our journey throughout castle learned more about each specific room. Saint George's Chapel was magnificent! There were no words to describe how beautiful the stained glass windows were in this chapel. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside. There was also a brief moment when we thought a royal was in the castle because some of the guards were out and about the grounds.

All and all, Windsor Castle was beautiful and our second practice of the day has made us excited for tomorrow's races. GO CROSS GO!!

Friday, June 20
From Malgorzata Smas

The eight woke up early today to fit in one last practice before the races began. After the practice we felt very strong and ready to race. In the afternoon, we watched our fours participate in the time trials. Both boats did extremely well and one will continue on tomorrow. They are the only American boat progressing in the Senior Four Category. As the boats came down the race course one by one, our very own Caroline Krug was called an "extremely enthusiastic coxswain" by the commentator. We also watched our housemates, the Netherlanders, compete. They won their race and we will be competing against them tomorrow morning. When we came back to our house, one of our teammates, Mara Piltin was surprised with a cake for her 20th birthday.

After all the racing, the international women's crews were invited to a reception at the Rowing Museum. At the museum we saw some beautiful old rowing boats and met some of the other crews. It was a very exciting day and we cannot wait for tomorrow to begin!

Saturday, June 21
From Katie Donnelly

It was race day - the day we had been looking forward to since practices had begun a few weeks before. As the senior 8+ and senior 4+ prepared for our races, the anticipation and excitement was high despite the stereotypically rainy English weather. The format of racing differs greatly from what we are used to in the U.S. The races are set up in a single elimination, dual style format, similar to brackets. All accepted participants are put into a draw and opponents are randomly assigned. The course is lined by tall wooden poles with heavy wooden booms strung between, creating a very narrow race lane. As the coxswains found out immediately upon arriving, this race is as much a cox's race as it is a rower's.

The eight raced our own housemates, the Dutch. Having had a bye for the first day of racing, our opponent was determined by the outcome of Friday's racing. After having practiced on the Thames with a strong headwind we were relieved to see virtually no wind for our race. After a rough start, we settled into a rhythm and rowed a technically clean, strong race. Unfortunately, we did not win, and therefore did not advance to the afternoon races. As it turned out, several of the members of the Dutch boat are part of the Under-23 Dutch National Team, putting them on an entirely different level than we are. Such is the luck of the draw.

Later that day, the Senior 4+ "A" Boat raced a team from Reading, England. They raced a good race, and all came off of the water pleased with their performance. Faced with stiff international competition, the four reacted well to the pressure and put forth a solid performance. The draw, once again, simply got the better of us, placing both Holy Cross boats with strong competition.

Sunday promised great races in the Elite 8 category and in the semis and finals of the Senior 8 category. We also looked forward to doing a bit of relaxing and sightseeing in the remainder of our stay in Henley.

Sunday, June 22
From Katherine Byrns

This morning, we all had the pleasure of not waking up to an early alarm. Our races were finished, but there was still a lot of action to take place at the river today. The semifinal of the Elite 8 category was to be a competitive race between Bucknell University and the prestigious Leander Club of England. Soon after, the Senior 8 (the category our own 8 was eliminated from) semifinal was to take place between our own rival Trinity College of Hartford, Conn., and our very own house mates, Skoll, the Dutch Under-23 National Team. The result of the Elite 8 had disappointed us because Bucknell was knocked out of the regatta, but we were still fired up to cheer for Trinity College, our fellow American team. As we sat along the riverside, we listened to the announcer giving the spectators updates on the race; we saw the two boats coming nearer. Trinity was ahead by about half a boat length when they passed by, but Skoll was making their move. The boats were so impressive and so close that a few of us ran down the path along the river to follow the race to the finish. All of a sudden we looked at the course and the Dutch teams' blades had caught on to the logs lining the course, causing them to stop rowing for a good amount of time. This unfortunate event for our housemates gave Trinity a lead that would now allow the Dutch to come back. We cheered for Trinity as they rowed past finish, giving us all a great sense of pride, knowing that an American boat had made it to the grand finals of the famous Henley Women's Regatta.

At the completion of these races, the team took a ride in the vans to Oxford University, which we all soon found out, was nothing like our quaint campus in Worcester - the university was a city in itself. Walking through the streets of Oxford was an incredible experience. The group split up as some girls became caught up in shopping at the street vendors as the others walked down to the famous Christ Church. The original plan was to go see the dining hall from the Harry Potter movies because it was filmed in the hall at the Christ Church, but unfortunately, admission had just recently closed. This did not set us back; however, because we ended up walking through beautiful gardens with roses in full bloom set along the walls surrounding the different colleges in the university. We passed by a cricket match taking place, along with a few cobblestone pedestrian walks and an avenue of Oxford University bookstores and famous pubs. Although we were only there for a short while, everyone got to see and experience the town of Oxford, and everyone joked about how incredible it would be to attend a university this large.

Once we reached Henley, the parents who were here for the races were waiting for us at a local French restaurant, as sort of a congratulatory and goodbye dinner because some of our teammates were leaving us this evening. The parents joined us for a lovely meal and we all got one last chance to bond with everyone on the trip. After we took the last few team pictures, some of the goodbyes started. We've had a great week here in Henley and we're all so sad to say goodbye until the fall, but before our journey is officially over, the remainder of the team has one last day to spend together in one of the greatest cities in the world...London, here we come!

Monday, June 23
From Johanna Cubelli

We were all excited to wake up early this morning and head off to London for our last full day overseas. After spending a week in the small town of Henley, the big city was a nice change of pace. We took a train into London and used the Tube, which brought us directly to the changing of the Horse Guard. This was interesting to see, because it showed a traditional English ceremony. We also got to pet the gorgeous black horses that the guards were riding. After this, we all went over to the Eye, which took us up 135 feet for a "flight" through the air. The Eye is located right over the Thames River with a panoramic view of the entire city.

Our other visits included Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden and the War Rooms underneath the government buildings. This was my favorite place, because it showed all of the rooms used by prime minister Winston Churchill, preserved exactly how they were during the time of the war. We also visited Harrod's to see the overwhelmingly huge and extravagant shopping experience that is so well-known in London. As we were searching for one of the 28 restaurants inside, a group of us saw the owner of Harrod's, Mohamed Al-Fayed, dressed to the nines and sampling some chocolate from his store, which was very exciting.

After a great day in London, we took the train home for dinner back in Henley and a relaxing last night at our house. As our trip winds down we try to soak up all of our time left together before we leave for the States and two months apart. It is hard to imagine being separated for this long a period of time after spending so much great time together during the past few months. This trip has definitely brought us all closer together both on and off the water and has been an exciting culmination of all of our hard work throughout the year. Most of all, this trip to England has made us all excited to come back for next season.