The West Virginia University rowing team is well into its third season under the direction of coach Jimmy King, who has made huge strides in the success of the program. As a sport that was once unknown to WVU spectators, the rowing team now has a large and dedicated squad and a home-regatta, which was completely unexpected just a few years ago.
“We’ve certainly grown in numbers, which has been a goal from the very start, but we need to continue growing,” says King. “In my first two years here, we were barely able to boat a Varsity 8 and a Varsity 4 crew in addition to the Novice crews.”
The Mountaineers now have two Varsity 8+ boats and one Varsity 4+ boat, along with one Novice 8+ and one Novice 4+ crew, which competes in almost every race that WVU has partakes in.
“We also continue to grow in the standards and expectations for ourselves in terms of academics, training, and accountability,” adds Kings. “The first step was simply to communicate the higher expectations that the coaching staff had of the students.”
With early-morning and afternoon weightlifting and training sessions, the members of the squad became more physically and mentally prepared to take on strong competition.
Now senior Caroline Rettig was honored as rowing’s Iron Mountaineer for the 2008-09 season, which is only awarded to WVU’s best physiologically conditioned athletes. Winning this award showed her dedication and leadership in the weight room and success on the water.
“Each year we have more people who have a better understanding of the expectations placed upon them,” King alleged. “As the team begins to grow in number, we are beginning to have more returning people who understand those expectations so that we aren’t starting anew each year in that regard.”
In February of 2010, Senior Kimberly Benda was honored as one of the 16 female athletes to be named a 2009-10 BIG EAST Institutional Female Scholar-Athlete.
Last May, Benda along with seniors Brett Krumholz and Kathryn Walsh, and rising junior Rachel Viglianco, were named National Scholar Athletes by the Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association for the 2008-09 academic year for holding a GPA of 3.5 and racing in over 75 percent of the team’s top boats.
Benda also showed the team’s dedication in the classroom when was honored as a National Scholar-Athlete by the CRCA for the 2007-08 academic year.
King continued to improved the program by hosting its first-ever home-regatta on the Monongahela River and has continued to hold the race every season that has followed.
“I wanted to host a home-race in my second year, not only because the weekly travel wears the team down, but to give the students an opportunity to race at home in front of their family and friends,” King explains.
The home-regatta, which took place in the spring of 2009, consisted of WVU, Dayton, Duquesne and George Mason. The Mountaineers had a successful run in the competition, with a first-place finish by the Varsity 4+ boat of Walsh, Rettig, Stephanie Roof and Keyara Stevenson, with coxswain Gillian Hanbury. The crew crossed the line with a time of 7:06.31 in front of Dayton (7:07.91), George Mason (7:12.33) and Duquesne (7:19.25).
WVU’s second Head of the Mon was held in the Fall of 2009 against George Washington and Dayton, where its Varsity 8+ team ‘A’ boat of Roof, Rettig, Krumholz, Benda, Viglianco, Jeannine McCarty, Kaitlyn Brownson, Alita Meyers and coxswain, Amanda Mahasky, took the title in the open eight competition with a time of 19:23.00.
“We’ll continue to plan for one home event each spring, but I would like to have two or three guest schools for more racing not only for our team, but for our spectators as well,” King added.
This year’s lone home-regatta will be held Saturday, April 17, against George Mason, which agreed to return after competing in WVU’s first-home regatta last spring. George Mason will use the close-to-home event as preparation for its conference championship the following week.
“After starting the season off well in terms of race preparation and execution, we took a step back last weekend,” said King in reference to the team’s performance at the 2010 Knecht Cup Regatta. “George Mason raced last weekend and we crossed the line behind them in two races. With better racing on our part, we hope to reverse those outcomes this weekend.”
The squad is seeing progress across the board this spring and plans to use its determination to have a good showing in the BIG EAST Championships for the third year under King. The Mountaineers took eighth-place for the past two years at the BIG EAST, and they hope to improve their standing at the 2010 BIG EAST Championships, which will be held April 25, in Worcester, Md.
“We have grown in character in the past few years, which is of the utmost importance to any successful program,” Kings admits. “Building and improving character is a continual process and one that we’re still earnestly working on to improve. I believe that as the team character continues to improve, so will our results.”
By Tiffany Doolittle
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